Book Review: The Unknowns

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The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth was our Critical Era online Book Club pick for December. It was a quick and quirky read which had some funny moments but it was definitely what we at Literary Hoarders like to call a “Boy Book”.

Boy Book Definition:

  1. Computer nerd protagonist obsessed with video games, comic books and/or getting together with a “real” girl.
  2. Unlimited funds usually obtained by computer nerdiness.
  3. Obsessive masturbation (uh ya– approx. every 5 pages there is a masturbation scene– awesome).
  4. Over analysis of masturbating computer nerd’s own faults told in a sarcastic and humorous way.
  5. The perfect dream girl who eventually falls for the sarcastic, masturbating computer nerd (and not just because of the unlimited funds).

Social outcast Eric Fuller spends his early high school days reading comics, obsessing about girls that he can’t get and masturbating. After becoming the butt of all jokes he turns to his computer for solace. He eventually hooks up with the nerdiest nerd at school to develop an early 90’s role-playing game. Fast forward 20 years later and Eric is still masturbating, has invented a web advertising tracking system and is a bazillionaire. He is still hopeless with the ladies but uses drugs and alcohol to loosen himself up. He meets up with the beautiful Maya at a party given by his newly lesbian BFF and instantly falls in love. Because he is an awkward computer nerd she ignores him completely and he leaves with her friend, Lauren, instead. Even though he is “madly in love” with Maya he offers Lauren Ecstasy and they screw all night. He makes a faux pas during this little encounter and reveals a very embarrassing Oedipal thought while high and his only fear is that Maya will find out. WHAT??

The story is presented in a way that makes you think that it was meant to be a funny, ironic look at a loser who knows he’s a loser and some of the thoughts and banter did have me chuckling out loud. But, the story takes a very serious turn once the beautiful and perfect Maya (miraculously) falls for Eric’s quirkiness (not his money) and it becomes harder to stay in a laughy frame of mind after that. There was also a lot of discussion of Eric’s own dysfunctional family which was presented in a very flippant tone which I actually found more sad than funny.Screen shot 2013-12-16 at 10.32.09 PM

The ending was atypical for this kind of story which I did find kind of refreshing and Mr. Roth definitely has mad writing and story telling skills. I don’t mind Boy Books on occasion but this wasn’t really the book for me–  I never really did warm up to Eric and I wanted to pound Maya square in her hipster glasses (she was just too cool for school in my opinion). I think that The Truth in Advertising by John Kenney did a way better job in tackling heavy subjects while maintaining a light and humorous tone.

2.5 stars, Meh– take it or leave it.