‘Single Girl’ a hot mess

Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Courtesy

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The single girl is in perpetual existential crisis. She is faced with a glut of choices, some of them formative, others as simple as whom to date, and none of them easy. She is a paradox: A simultaneous blend of autonomy and dependence, of indecision and resolution. Her desire floats from subject to subject (or from object to object, depending on her promiscuity), yet her heart yearns to be grounded. And if she’s reeling due to the indelible pangs of heartbreak from former love, well, then she’s even more of a hot mess than normal.

It is this puzzling type of individual that Daria Snadowsky’s novel, “Anatomy of a Single Girl,” seeks to understand. Her protagonist, Dominique Baylor, is an eighteen-year-old schoolgirl, fresh off her freshman year as a pre-med at Tulane University. After spending the better part of the term grieving from a breakup with her high-school boyfriend and former love, she returns home to Fort Myers, Fla., for a summer internship at a local hospital. As she reunites with her kooky parents and Amy, her impish best friend, all seems set for a low-key vacation full of family outings and sleepovers.

That is, until Dom meets hottie fratboy (Beta, in case you’re wondering) Guy Davies, a physics major at Henry Ford Institute of Technology. She finds the courage to strike up a conversation and ask him out, a crucial first step toward finding her inner daring woman. The wheels are set in motion, and the reader anticipates the excitement of a new fling, ready to take off with Dom on the path to self-discovery.

But Snadowsky’s novel is quick to disappoint. Dom’s romance with Guy is momentous to her life, but to the reader it’s an outright bore. For a book about teenage affairs, “Anatomy of a Single Girl” is severely lacking in playfulness or wit. Just because a single girl’s head is often up in the clouds doesn’t mean it has to be vacuous. During her first date with Guy, Dom notes, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d guess Guy’s gravitational pull was reeling me in, from the way I leap to my feet and glide toward him at breakneck speed.” Such thoughts pervade the novel and are neither funny nor charming.

That’s not to say that there’s a need for Dom or any other character to be particularly sophisticated. Guy’s part-scientist, part-fraternity-brother persona is as simple as it gets yet serves its purpose. He’s a dude who likes sex — little else is required. But given that the reader spends most of the novel inside Dom’s head, it wouldn’t hurt if she had just a smidgeon of spark or spice. During her first intimate moment with Guy, she remarks, “I didn’t know it was possible to feel this ecstatic, wary, and turned on all at the same time.” It’s hard to think of a more expressionless and anticlimactic reaction.

It’s not all humdrum, however, as Amy’s character is the exception that adds flavor to the single-girl life. As a fun-loving and slightly unstable best friend, Amy contributes a bit of cleverness and some amusing relationship insights. In fact, she is a map of what Dom should have been because, let’s face it, we’d much rather read about a cheeky and haughty personality than about one who’s tepid and remarkably ordinary. One suspects that in writing “Anatomy of a Single Girl,” Sandowsky simply picked the wrong single girl to scrutinize. Through the lens of Dom’s character, it is difficult to appreciate the full extent and comedy of the single-girl conundrum.

Contact Eytan at [email protected].