'The Unknowns'

Friday, July 5, 2013

"The Unknowns"

By Gabriel Roth. Reagan Arthur, 213 pp. $25

In a typical romantic comedy, characters are categorized based on their "type" - jocks generally hang out with other jocks and chase after the popular girls; the preps study and work on the school newspaper and on their student council campaigns; and the computer nerds play video games and code programs.

Gabriel Roth breaks the mold a bit in "The Unknowns." Eric Muller is a computer programmer, a grown-up version of the "teenage geek" and a recent millionaire after his web company sold up to a larger corporation.

He's now at a crossroads: he has the money, he has the skill set, but now he needs the girl.

I loved the stream-of-consciousness perspective Roth takes in this book. We see everything through Eric's eyes, and we hear everything running through his head. He approaches women the same way he approaches a new program he will code. As a teenager, he listed every girl in his school and charted their interactions: who they hung out with, what they did, his interactions with them, etc.

While incredibly smart and full of fast-paced, witty dialogue, I feel Roth could have gone deeper into the characters. He tipped on the edge of their misguided actions without actually diving in and revealing the real grittiness that would make them unforgettable.

"The Unknowns" is a good book, erring just shy of great, and I see Roth as an author to watch in the next years.

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