"I Suck at Girls" (It Books), by Justin Halpern: With a title like "I Suck at Girls," from the best-selling author of "S--- My Dad Says," in a thin volume that would be much thinner if all the profanity were expunged, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting. From the cover art of boxers strewn on a headboard to the endorsement quote from Maxim, Justin Halpern's second book makes no effort to deceive. This is light reading, easily absorbed in a couple of hours, distracted or not, no thinking required.
At the start of the book, Halpern is sitting at a lunch table with his father when he reveals that he plans to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Amanda, the next day. He is eager to witness the excitement he assumes this news will conjure, but gets only this: "Good for you. I think I'm going to get the romaine and watercress salad."
Perturbed by his dad's reaction, he gleans a bit of inspiration when his father eventually tells him what he did the day before he proposed to Justin's mother. He says he spent a day thinking about what he had learned about himself up to that point in his life, what he had learned about women, and took stock of it all.
With that in mind, Halpern takes readers on a short trip through two decades of interactions with women, from the girl he terrorized in second grade to his first kiss on the way home from his high school homecoming dance to the underwhelming loss of his virginity to a Hooters waitress.
None of these stories is particularly unique and, sadly, they're generally not that humorous. Only one person stands out -- the author's father. But his words are so blunt and explicit that he seems at times a caricature and his dialogue can seem manufactured.
In the end, Halpern finds the girl of his dreams and happily puts behind him a youth filled with feelings of inferiority. "I had always sucked at girls," he writes. "But now I was about to not suck, and it made all the pathetic moments of my past feel like trifles I could laugh at."
Perhaps you will laugh, too, reading Halpern's bland recollection. But chances are you have better youthful stories of your own.