For What It's Worth

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen


15705311Sometimes the most dramatic scenes in a high school theater club are the ones that happen between the actors and crew off stage.

Seventeen-year-old Tyler Darcy's dream of being a writer is starting to feel very real now that he's sold his first short story to a literary journal. He should be celebrating its publication with his two best friends who've always had his back, but on this night, a steady stream of texts from his girlfriend Sidney keep intruding. So do the memories of his dream girl, Becky, who's been on his mind a little too much since the first day of high school. Before the night is over, Ty might just find the nerve to stop all the obsessing and finally take action. ~ Goodreads

Review:
Tom Leveen's debut YA novel, Party, is one of my favorite books but manicpixiedreamgirl just landed him on my auto buy author list.

If you haven't read anything by Tom Leveen yet, you're in for a treat. His stories and characters are raw, imperfect, real and relatable. Life is messy and we don't always get neat tidy endings and Leveen's writing reflects that.

Tyler falls hard for Rebecca Webb from the moment he first sees her sitting alone in the cafeteria. She has an edgy hairstyle, a tattoo, sorts her animal crackers into piles of broken and unbroken and has that alluring yet aloof quality. No one talks to Becky and that just makes 15 year old Tyler want to break down those walls to know the *real* Becky Webb.

And this is the main theme for manicpixiedreamgirl. The title for the book was based on this article and the articles author, Nathan Rabin's, coining of the phrase. His definition: "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." (Fun follow up article with actresses that exemplify the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in film)

How many of us has built up a fantasy in our mind, especially in high school, of the person we dream of being with? What happens when you actually talk to that person? Can they possibly live up to our expectations for them?

As an aspiring writer, Tyler has featured Becky in many of his stories. She's always a star, always shining impossibly bright. He cast himself as her knight in shining armor. He’s suave (& with rock hard abs) saying the perfect thing that makes her melt and ride off with him on his white horse into the sunset.

The reality…he can't even work up the nerve to do more than covertly spy on her and make sure he's in the right place to walk by her in the hall every day. He befriends Sydney, a girl who knows Becky, just to get some intel. As time passes he falls into a relationship with Sydney but Becky is always on his mind.

Then after years of pining the unthinkable happens. He becomes friends with Becky and Tyler's neat little life starts spiraling out of control.

manicpixiedreamgirl is told in alternating present tense and flashbacks. The transitions are so smooth and blend perfectly together that I was completely lost to the story as dreams and reality collide.

Tyler is surrounded by a great cast of characters. His two best friends always back him up but aren't afraid to call it like they see it either. He also has a supportive family and I appreciated seeing a healthy brother/sister relationship for once. Becky is fascinating as the object of Tyler's affections. She finds herself wanting to be the girl that he sees her as. She's had a rough life and my heart broke for her.

The person who really intrigued me the most though is Tyler's girlfriend Sydney. Leveen didn't make her the typical jealous girlfriend or the uptight shrew to Becky's free spirit. Sydney is smart, confident and bold. She knows the score when it comes to Tyler's feelings about Becky. Yet she sticks around hoping he'll snap out of it but not in a needy, clingy way. She's good for Tyler and he does care about her. It just made me wonder if Tyler is Sydney's male version of a manicpixiedreamgirl - the aloof-artist-dreamer-boy, with her always playing second fiddle to his muse. Was she seeing Tyler as he could be but not as he was - like he was doing with Becky?

Sorry….I got off track there lol But the book really had me thinking about how high school relationships shape your future and what kind of person you decide that you want to be as an adult. It's such an awkward time when feelings are x's 1000! You can take chances, make mistakes, stumble and hopefully find your way out of it and learn from the experiences.

Final thoughts: I don't know what else to say. I loved this book. manicpixiedreamgirl shows the hope, despair, love, heartbreak and awkwardness of high school. It transported me back to those years and often made me cringe as I saw myself reflected in Tyler. If you're looking for perfect characters who do everything right - don't look here, occasionally you will want to shake Tyler. But if you want a funny, messy, poignant character driven story then I highly recommend manicpixiedreamgrl.

Author: Website | Twitter
Source: ARC provided by the author via Netgalley for my honest review
Buy the book! Release date: April 23, 2013 Amazon | Indie Bound

16 comments:

  1. I've never read any Tom Leveen, but I definitely want to now! This sounds like a book that just about anyone could relate to and I loved the way you described it. Really, really great review - I'm going to have to look up Party too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His characters seem very real to me. Not everyone does the right thing but I can recall almost every scenario from my high school days.

      Delete
  2. Great review!!!
    Loved when you asked: "It just made me wonder if Tyler is Sydney's male version of a manicpixiedreamgirl - the aloof-artist-dreamer-boy, with her always playing second fiddle to his muse. Was she seeing Tyler as he could be but not as he was - like he was doing with Becky?"

    Interesting point. It just shows how mysterious and heartbreaking love can be. Thanks so much for encouraging me to read this!

    Jen @ YA Romantics

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah - high school is rough lol

      I think we all have more of a fantasy in our heads with our first crushes. I look back at my yearbook and I think I liked HIM!!!

      Delete
  3. Now on your auto-buy author list, huh? I knew Jen loved this, but I haven't seen many other reviews for it. Now I'm definitely curious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you read it! Any of his books really. They are all really good.

      Delete
  4. oh, this sounds interesting! I know there are problems with the manic pixie dream girl context because it's like, justification for "nice guys" or whatever. I already felt frustrated with Tyler reading your review so I wonder how it will be if I actually read it, ha. I like the question you raised if Tyler was Sydney's ideal. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tyler can be frustrating but all of his actions were believable to me. I tend to get angry at characters but I got where he was coming from.

      I thought there were interesting dynamics going on with Tyler/Sydney and Becky. Without giving too much away - I wouldn't call Becky a true manicpixiedreamgirl - more inspired by. I think this was more a coming of age story. For all the characters.

      Delete
  5. The title is just too much for me, I could never remember it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! that's so funny....it's so unique that I can't forget it.

      Delete
  6. Wow! This sounds fab! Must add this one to the wishlist. It sounds like a good character book to me... plus you had me at artist... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, he's a writer but he fills that dreamy artistic type - easily diverted by a muse :-)

      Delete
  7. I wanted to read this book ...but my copy was bad through Net Galley :( . I enjoyed his other book

    ReplyDelete
  8. So this is the book you were raving about on Twitter! I am definitely curious about the series. I will put these on my tbr. Great review, Karen!

    ReplyDelete
  9. The raw stories and perfectly imperfect characters sound great. I haven't read anything by him but should try
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, this book wasn't on my radar at ALL and now I'm totally going to add it to the wish list to buy! It sounds awesome, I love poignant books with fallible characters.

    Seriously, great review! :)

    April @ My Shelf Confessions

    ReplyDelete