When listening to audiobooks, there are times when the quality of the writing is clear and clearly different from the quality of the narration. However, quite a few audiobooks, such as Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis narrated by Maxwell Glick, are harder to decipher. In books such as these, it it clear that the narration is subpar, but that can distort the effect of the writing on the reader.
Not Exactly a Love Story tells the tale of fifteen year old Vinnie Gold, a teenager in New York in the 1970s. Vinnie has to deal with many issues facing teens, including his girl moving to California, his parents getting divorced, his mom remarrying, and himself falling for Patsy, the girl next door. When Vinnie happens upon Patsy’s phone number, he decides to call her at midnight, setting off a string of late night phone calls where Vinnie, under the guise of his alter ego Vincenzo, and Patsy open up to each other, sharing a side of themselves they don’t show anyone else.
That sounds like an interesting story, right? It did to me until I started listening and a few things became transparent (and some more opaque). First is the fact that Vinnie’s “girl” who moves away does so at the beginning of the story. She doesn’t even get a name, and yet we’re supposed to believe he’s heartbroken at her departure, something he tells us a small handful of times but never shows. Then there are the late night phone calls, the first of which ends with Vinnie inquiring, “Wanna fuck?” The fact that Patsy continues to answer his phone calls could be Couloumbis attempting to make some kind of social commentary on the way girls were expected to behave, but if it is, she misses her mark.
This isn’t to say that Couloumbis’ novel is all bad. The plot thread of the parents’ divorce was handled well. Whereas most writers would be too heavy-handed with such a topic, Couloumbis offers a realistic view at a teenager trying to cope with his parents’ break-up. At times, much of Vinnie’s internal conflict felt like a teenager of any decade. And the drama among Vinnie, Patsy, and Patsy’s boyfriend felt organic. The rest of the story, unfortunately, came across more contrived and less voice-y, a fact not improved by the narrator.
When Maxwell Glick first started reading, I had to look up the age level of Vinnie to make sure I was reading a Young Adult and not a Middle Grade novel. This isn’t Glick’s fault. His voice sounds way too much like an MG narrator than YA, meaning whoever decided he should be the one reading didn’t do their job. There were some things that Glick could have improved on, though. For starters, I think Couloumbis was trying to give Vinnie’s mother a stereotypical Italian mother’s persona and cadence, but Glick’s reading of her character took away most of the personality. In fact, most of his characters had merely tiny variations in the way Glick portrayed them, making the reading experience uninspired and leaving me wondering how much of my indifference toward this novel was because I was bored by the writing or by the reading. Whatever the reason, the results are the same: a mediocre audiobook I didn’t even want to finish, let alone write a review for.
With Coulolumbis contributing 1.5, I give Not Exactly a Love Story 2 out of 5 headphones.
The rating scale for reviews is out of 5 headphones, 4 of which can be earned by the author, and 1 which can be earned by the narrator.