As with her unwitting rise to fame, there’s a good and a bad side to Robin Benway’s novel, Audrey, Wait! The good is that Benway very competently examines the effects Audrey’s situation would have on her. Her ex-boyfriend, feeling a tad vengeful, writes a song about her dumping him, it becomes a smash hit, and she gets a wealth of unwanted attention out of it. Her friend sees only the good in this, the potential benefits, such as free cars and the ability to be backstage with a band you properly fangirl over. Audrey, however, sees only the bad, such as the lead singer of said band drawing more unwanted attention to her by kissing her in the hopes that she’ll become his muse, much like he was for her last ex. The video for this encounter would soon find its way online and people all over the internet would throw out words like “slut,” but all her friend seemed to care about was that she got to kiss a hot guy from one of their favorite bands, not the violation of her privacy.
On that level, Audrey, Wait! is a rather believable account of what it would be like for someone to go through this. But then there’s James, Audrey’s awkward coworker who, psyche, is really the male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. He goes from a guy who can’t hold a conversation about anything besides work to a smooth-talker who has a clever quip for everything, and who doesn’t have one discernible flaw to him, at least not that Audrey sees. Sure, they have a little fight right before the end, but of course you know they’re going to kiss and make up (quite literally). James is there to give Audrey support, and to make cute conversation with her, so there’s no way he’s staying out of the picture for long.
I think I reacted so negatively to James because I can relate to James… somewhat. I’m routinely awkward. I like to keep to myself rather than put myself out there and risk rejection. And yet I can be rather personable if given the chance. For instances, I’m rather comfortable on first dates, and I can also turn into a bit of a chatterbox once I get to know someone. Yet he felt more like a Manic Pixie Dream Guy in an unconvincing disguise than someone who’s actually like me, because even when I do open up, there’s always that underlying awkwardness that is bound to come out here and there. Yet, once James turns that charm of his on, it never turns back off. He’s charming, he’s chivalrous, he’s understanding. The “too perfect” criticism aside, I would date him. I mean, as much as I agree that the MPDG is deserving of scorn, I still can’t help but fall for the female characters who fall into that category, more often than not. It’s a trope for a reason, you know. Still, it felt like a cheap trick, even though it worked.
As a result, Audrey, Wait! left me conflicted. Benway is a fine writer who’s capable of more than just breezy prose that’s there mostly to make girls squee, she just doesn’t always show it. I’ll wait, though, until I’ve read more of her work before I pass judgment on her. And I will read more, because I did rather likeAudrey, Wait!, in spite of my reservations. I mean, if you’re looking for something in the MPDG vein, you might as well go with someone who clearly knows how to do it well.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.