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Boo-Hoo, I Got Friendzoned
am 26. November 2014
In David Nicholls' "Starter For Ten" we meet Brian, a first-class pretentious dude that is hopelessly friendzoned and doesn't quite get the hint.
After watching the movie version of "One Day", I got quite interested in David Nicholls and thought that I should try reading one of his novels. When my local bookstore had a ridiculously cheap offer for this one, I couldn't pass. Maybe I should have.
What plays the biggest part in me disliking this one - yes, I'm starting my review off by just telling it like it is - is that he tries way too hard to make the characters relatable. Since the main character Brian just finished high school. we are obviously dealing with a New Adult story. but honestly. the characters are extremely off. You can tell immediately that this is a grown man writing, trying to sound hip and cool and totally missing the essence of what it is like to be eighteen. Yes, you might argue that the novel is set in the 1980s, but if I met a guy like Brian who just won't stop bragging about how smart and sophisticated he is while just thinking he's having a normal conversation - uhm. You get the picture.
Nicholls even tries to use this as a stylistic device. Brian is an annoying person to befriend and therefore nobody wants to hang out with him. He is basically a slightly older version of Dash from "Dash and Lily's Book of Dares". Except Brian is also not very good-looking, which Nicholls makes sure to emphasize at least fifteen times throughout the novel.
While I do encourage to have ugly, unpopular characters instead of having everyone look like the archetypical greek god models, this is taking it too far. It's not relatable. It's not funny. You're trying to hard. Maybe, given the fact that I am not a teenage boy, I just don't relate to this, but this isn't the kind of novel an author wants to create, right? Everyone should be able to enjoy this, your target audience shouldn't be only boys like Brian.
Another problem with the characters is that they are only characterized by how they feel about Brian. there's hardly anyone who can stand him unless they want something from him. While the protagonist is explored thoroughly, everyone else remains pretty flat. Especially love interest Alice, who is just interesting because she's hot. (Characters 1/5)
Usually I would have continued and forced myself to finsish this, had there been an interesting plot. The novel revolves around five university students applying to a quiz show called University Challenge. Except this isn't even the focus. There are random bits of more or less unconnected events that are supposed to illustrate what a loser Brian is (e.g. girls rejecting/arguing/insulting him 24/7), and then after another three chapters something relevant to the plot happens. As a reader, I got bored pretty easily, because the plot is just so inconsistent. And hell, I could have not cared less about that annoying game show. There's nothing keeping me to want to continue reading!
After about 150 pages I was done, completely and utterly through with this. Neither could I stand another second of Brian talking, nor of Nicholls trying to speak the "lingo". And actually, this whole business of Alice rejectign him times and times over and him not understanding it - just - as a woman about her age I know this too well. Dudes who won't back off no matter what you do.
No, I don't want to read a novel about it.
No, I don't want to sympathize with poor Brian who does everything for her but still doesn't get laid. Women don't owe you s***.
Not even when they're hot.