Sometimes 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.
About Tom Leveen
I’ve been wanting to start a novel with the line “It’s about a girl” for a long time. Now, with manicpixiedreamgirl, I can cross that off my list. Because as a teen . . . man, everything was about a girl.
Turns out, this is the most autobiographical of my novels so far. Which is to say, like, five percent autobiographical. It is not a true story in the sense of it being nonfiction. Party and Zero were maybe two or three percent “true,” in terms of things that happened to me personally. But with manicpixiedreamgirl, I went a lot farther (further? Gah, who can keep those straight?) into my high school experience than in my previous novels.
So, yes, it’s about a girl. I mean, what else is high school supposed to be about if not young/first/thrilling/doomed love?
There’s two parts to this novel. There’s the semi-nostalgic, somewhat-regretful, true-ish part, where I got to relive those formative years and inspirations all over again, and that was fun. It stung a little, too, when I took the time to realize that, yeah, I was pretty much an idiot on my best days, and far worse on my worst days. Still—we had a good time, and everyone pretty much turned out okay. (Which is not the same as saying “No one got hurt.”)
Then there’s the grown-up, now-I’m-a-dad, author part. That’s the part that I want people to really take home. It’s the part that’s not so much about the protagonist, Tyler, but about his “dream girl,” Becky.
There are a lot of Beckys out there. Guys and girls both who are willing to do pretty much anything to make the pain stop for a minute, or feel like someone at least knows they exist.
If you’ve read Party, you might think of Becky Webb as who Beckett Montgomery could have become had not things gone differently that night in Santa Barbara. Like so many of us, Becky is lost and abandoned and shattered. When we reach that point, no matter what our age, we often start doing things to ourselves not easily taken back or undone.
I’ve been there. Maybe you have, too. If you know what I’m talking about, then let me tell you this, too: Don’t give up. It gets better.
I hope you enjoy the story for the story itself. I hope you laugh at Tyler (and at me) for being such a doofblatt most of the time. (His heart’s in the right place, I think, but he’s also, you know . . . a boy, so.) I hope that, if you haven’t already, you find your own dream girl/boy someday, like I have.
And I really hope that, on those days you feel like these characters, you’ll at the very least remember you’re not alone. ’Kay? Cool. Take care.
"Tyler Darcy has been obsessed with Becky Webb ever since glimpsing her in all her tattooed, ringer T-shirt–wearing glory freshman year. Never mind that he doesn’t exchange words with Becky for an entire year or that he gets a girlfriend, Sydney, in the meantime. “The adorable eccentric sweetheart who dazzles a broody male lead,” is how Sydney defines the manic-pixie-dream-girl stereotype; Becky isn’t that girl, but Tyler is fairly happy to let her be, idolizing and idealizing her rather than getting to know her. Leveen’s (Zero) story unfolds mostly in flashbacks to Tyler’s freshman and sophomore years; the present-day action takes place on the very drunken night when Tyler is forced to decide where he stands with Sydney and Becky. The time shifts give the story a cinematic sense of tension, but it’s the relationships between the novel’s teenage characters that are the real standouts. Tyler’s crass banter with his buddies, his snarky but supportive relationship with his sister, and his botched dealings with both Becky and Sydney are entirely realistic." --Publishers Weekly
"Ty fell in love with Becca the minute he saw her in ninth grade, sitting alone in the cafeteria separating the broken animal crackers from the whole ones, and only eating the broken ones. He can’t bring himself to approach her, however, so he tries to get information on her from Sydney, a girl he can talk to, and he eventually finds himself dating Sydney instead of Becca. Two years later, he’s still dating Sydney, and still hopelessly in love with Becca. Syd is nothing if not pragmatic: she knows who holds Ty’s heart, but she also knows that she has the rest of him, and that Becca is not the girl Ty idealizes her to be. In fact, Becca’s so broken that even Ty’s love isn’t likely to fix her, a fact that Ty comes to face only gradually, as he befriends Becca while continuing, guiltily, to date Syd. Narration alternates between the present, where Ty is drinking in the park with his best friends while Syd finally breaks up with him, and Ty’s recollections of the previous two years, which have been defined by his crush on Becca. He has written endless stories to exorcise his romantic demons and further idealize his dream girl, and even though he knows that his fantasized Becca is very different from the Becca who smokes pot and is always “open for business,” he can’t give up his hopes. This is therefore an examination of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope rather than reiteration of it, but any readers who have lost their hearts to a troubled waif or watched while someone else did will relate to Ty’s obsession. In fact, it is the watchers in this tale that carry a lot of the interest; Syd, Ty’s sister, and his zany best buds all provide admirable support in different ways for their lovelorn pal as he works very hard to break his own heart." -- The Bulletin
"I can't say enough about this book. It's 256 pages of real people with real emotions, actions and reactions that is nothing short of absolutely compelling. Every character is unique and steps outside of some of the stereotypical teenage characters you see in fiction. If you're looking for a fantastic read that nixes the melodrama of high school and overblown archetypes associated with it then your search ends with manicpixiedreamgirl. Simultaneously quick-witted and achingly real, Leveen's latest work is not to be missed." -- Wastepaper Prose Blog