The story has been told a million times. Boy meets girl(s). Boy falls for girl(s). Boy overthinks the situation and misinterprets dozens of signals eventually leading to the bitter demise of his romantic options and ruining any prospective opportunities with the girl(s). Really, a million times.
We Should Hang Out Sometime
December 23, 2014
Well, make it a million and one.
In Josh Sundquist’s (“Just Don’t Fall”) upcoming book of true stories — “We Should Hang Out Sometime” — he revisits his failed relationships, or rather, near-relationships. From eighth grade to high school to his twenties, Sundquist — a cancer survivor, amputee, Paralympic skier, motivational speaker and YouTube star — guides the reader through the face-in-hand awkwardness of adolescence to the head-banging-against-wall awkwardness of early adulthood.
The title comes from Sundquist’s own playful observation that, to avoid rejection, you should never ask anyone “out.” Just say, “we should hang out sometime.”
“We should hang out sometime is so perfect because it’s nearly impossible to say no to.” For the remainder of the book, whenever Sundquist is interested in a girl, he uses this move.
The book operates as a collection of quasi-experiments Sundquist conducts to find out why he is so unequivocally single.
“I would go back in time and examine the events of my failed relationships through the lens of graphs and charts. I would then hypothesize and investigate, tracking down the girls I had tried to date and asking them, straight up: What went wrong? Why didn’t you like me? Why did you reject me?”
As he said, interspersed throughout the chapters are his quirky graphs — the likes of which he uses so often on his YouTube channel.
A bar graph comparing the usefulness of “Getting A’s” vs. “Getting Girls.” A Venn diagram concluding that the perfect combination of Danger and Romance is a Rooftop Picnic. A line graph arguing that the stupidity of popularity contests is directly correlated with losing the contest.
The graphs, though charming and half-witty at first, seem forced and gimmicky by the final few chapters. They drag and break Sundquist’s flow and feel like an obligation rather than a treat. When I wanted to hear more about Sarah Stevens or Evelyn Williamson, a graph would interrupt me with something that could just as easily be explained in prose (and often was).
There is something to be said for Sundquist’s graphs though. Days after finishing his book, the charts and visuals lingered in my mind when much of the story didn’t.
Notably, I remembered two pie charts comparing frequency of marriage ceremony objections in real life versus in movies. I wondered to myself, “Where did I see that? Was that on Tumblr?” No, not Tumblr, Bernard. Sundquist.
So be assured: while, upon first reading, the graphs seem like a waste of space and a half-hearted attempt at originality, there is some real, lasting value to their simplicity and accessibility.
Likewise, Sundquist’s style and storytelling is quick, self-deprecating, and a pleasure to read. He just makes it look easy. The results are technically simple prose, but its air of effortlessness matches the book’s juvenile topics and lets the reader devour page after silly page.
Even as he tackles rejection after rejection, Sundquist retains his optimism and refuses to sway from the book’s generally light-hearted tone. The final product is an easy-to-read set of tales that doesn’t beat you over the head with morals or cute, but inapplicable, quotes about love.
Every story feels like it’s being told by that one kind of awkward guy at Pizza House who you keep forgetting is a math geek (and an amputee and a Paralympic skier and a YouTube sensation).
“If I really want to find you on Facebook, no number of privacy settings is going to stop me.”
Out of context, that’s really creepy. But we’re so close to Sundquist at this point in the book (Chapter 17) that we just accept it and read on, especially since the footnote associated with it says, “Creepiest sentence in this book?”
Sundquist could so easily dip into exhausting frustration, bitter nostalgia or insipid self-pampering, but his tone remains modest, down-to-earth and refreshingly unrefined.
The same goes for his prose. Oftentimes, the book falls victim to worn-out clichés and dim attempts at humor, but as a whole, “We Should Hang Out Sometime” lives up to the casualness of its title. It’s not trying to be the next great collection of memoirs or dazzle book critics who use words like “verisimilitude” and “muse.”
In a book with a defined ceiling, it’s refreshing to find an author accepting his limitations who only delivers where he can. Sundquist writes a simple book with simple sentences, but stories produce an unexpected sincerity and depth.
Sundquist’s newest set of memoirs comes out Dec. 23. If you’re looking for a book to surprise you or just a way to tell your significant other that you’re “awkward like this guy,” pick up this coming-of-age story.
It might not be your favorite book, but “We Should Hang Out Sometime” is that little paperback you keep under the bed for those rainy nights, alone in your room, without a girlfriend/boyfriend. Simple, quick and pretty funny, it’s a breath of fresh air in the muggy air of assigned readings and dense textbooks.