Although it’s being marketed as adult fiction, it’s full of clueless boys, consequence-free adventures and generous helpings of adolescent humor, all served up with a kind smile ... you relish the book’s countless callbacks to the 1980s: Every TV show, Hollywood star, snack food, video game, brand name and especially every song is duly name-checked to the extent that Phil Collins could demand a cut of the sales. In the way of so many first novels, this scene-setting is drastically overdone, but the whole thing is brought off with a sweet neatness nonetheless. The only thing missing is the warm Wonder Years voice-over.
...a sweet and surprising story about young love ... As with the reference overload, it could be easy to become discouraged by what appears to be a clichéd story with clear good guys and bad guys. But Rekulak surprises, subverting tropes by adding bits of depth to most of his supporting characters to show that people who’ve taken bad turns sometimes deserve second chances and nice people can make very bad decisions. Most notably Rekulak uses the traditional 'boy loses girl' segment of the story to take a hard and honest look at misogyny and male entitlement with the previously highly sympathetic Billy going on a rejection-fueled rant ... Rekulak’s writing style is so visual and his story so neat and contained it practically begs to be adapted into a movie.
Need a sanctuary book right about now? Maybe a retro escapist read about simpler times that lets you laugh out loud, not overthink, indulge in nostalgia? Well, here you go ... Throughout this charming adventure, Rekulak injects ‘80s references — everything from RC Cola, Hall and Oates and Spuds MacKenzie, to CompuServe, Bernhard Goetz, and Bugle Boy pants, not to mention plenty of ‘80s geek talk. But it all serves the setting without being overdone or gratuitous. In fact, the novel’s ‘80s allure, as well as its adolescent energy and strong characters, is reminiscent of Ernest Cline’s 2011 teenage sci-fi romp Ready Player One, as well as the current Netflix series Stranger Things (without the Stranger part). And the vibe of Billy’s narrative borrows from great voice-overs in classics such as The Wonder Years and A Christmas Story. Pretty good company for a pretty good novel.