Tim Hunniecutt’s coming-of-age debut, inspired by the author’s experiences, tells the fast-paced love story involving two college-aged teens.
The story opens in 1978 in Brandon, Florida. Nineteen-year-old Christopher, a first-year student at Florida State University, returns to JB Pizza restaurant to work for the second summer when he meets coworker Chloe, a student at The University of Kentucky. He’s quickly smitten.
Before the novel explores Chloe and Christopher’s romantic journey, it jumps back in time to follow Chris’s previous romantic exploits, starting with Deb, a girl from high school he meets at a party; the two flirt before they agree to get together the next day. However, when Deb realizes Chris is about to leave for college, she expresses her desire to remain friends, leaving Chris longing for an authentic romantic connection.
Subsequent chapters navigate Chris’s post-graduation romantic entanglements, when he experiences his first heartbreak: After Chris finds one of the girls he’s dating with another man, the incident sparks a painful memory of witnessing his mother engaged in an affair. Chris’s trust in women wanes after the fling.
The tale eventually returns to Chris and Chloe’s love story. Past relationship experiences leave Chloe guarded, and despite Chris’s fast emotional investment, the relationship struggles. Due to his mistrust issues, Chris pressures Chloe to express her feelings. When she doesn’t, Chris questions the relationship’s worth. As the narrative unfolds, readers ponder whether the couple can overcome their problems to forge a lasting romance.
The story’s power lies in the endearing, practical way love blossoms between Chloe and Chris. However, although Hunniecutt skillfully navigates Chris’s romantic experiences, the time allocated to exploring his relationships with other women leaves readers little insight into Chloe’s character and hinders the story’s pace. The novel takes time to reach its focal point, but Chris’s and Chloe’s interactions eventually move things forward.
Readers will find this a sometimes-frustrating but generally entertaining story that culminates in a satisfying conclusion.