|When you write a book that immediately reminds the reader of Nick Hornby’s brilliant High Fidelity, you’ve got a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, Dan Graziano’s debut novel, I Think She’s Trying to Tell Me Something, is a pale imitation of the Lad Lit classic. Graziano, who covers the Yankees for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, may be a talented sportswriter but he is a weak novelist. His characters, especially the females, are one-dimensional and his plot is thin. In baseball terms, Graziano has hit an easy ground-out to the pitcher.
Sportswriter Jack Byrnes (hey, write what you know) is on the cusp of becoming a thirty year old, and so far he’s pretty content with his life. He enjoys his job, he’s got two best buddies for drinking and video game playing, and he loves living in New York City. He recently broke up with his girlfriend Connie, who moved out after waiting in vain for Jack to say those three little words every woman wants to hear, but he is more bemused than devastated by her departure.
Jack’s only concern is that he keeps running into old girlfriends everywhere he goes. First he sees former girlfriend Mary Ann in Midway Airport, then the first girl he kissed turns up as a lounge singer in a neighborhood bar. Others, including his college girlfriend Danielle, and Amy, the object if his unrequited passion, make surprising cameo appearances. In the midst of this strange karma, Jack meets the woman of his dreams. He realizes if he is to have a chance at happiness with her, he has to put his ghosts to rest. But will his past relationships threaten his new one?
It’s impossible to read this book and not think of High Fidelity’s Rob, the record store-owner and list-maker, who contacts his old girlfriends to see why he keeps messing up relationships with women. But while Rob (and his two friends, obnoxious Barry and oddball Dick) have conversations that are both hilarious and poignant, Jack and his two friends Jeff and Bernie are dull and banal in comparison, with their football video games the highlight of their interaction. Sadly, Jack’s relationship with his buddies is positively deep compared to way the women in his life are portrayed. They’re all one-dimensional, and most are bitchy or psychotic, with the exception of the lesbian, who is wise and understanding (there’s a lesson in there somewhere…). The object of Jack’s love-at-first-sight, Julie, is an aspiring People journalist who is beautiful and perky. Why does Jack love her? Because she’s “awesome.” Don’t you admire a man who has a way with words?
I’m giving the book two hearts instead of one because it does include a few scenes of Jack at work, covering the Yankees in the off-season. But in a cruel twist, much of the story takes place during Jack’s vacation, so there isn’t as much baseball as I would have wished for.
There’s little to no character development in the novel; Jack doesn’t become a better person (he’s already a pretty decent guy), and the only lesson he learns is to cherish a relationship’s good memories and forget the bad ones. Hey Dan Graziano, I think I’m trying to tell you something – you need more work before you become a good writer.