Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: "The Naive Guys: A Memoir of Friendship, Love and Tech in the Early 1990s" by Harry Patz Jr.

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Reading Harry Patz Jr.'s first novel filled me with nostalgia. Mark Amici graduates from Boston College in 1991 (the same year I graduated from college), ready to take on the world. But the struggling economy takes its toll on Mark's job prospects, so he moves home to New York to live with his mother, his uncle, and his older sister. As he subsists on bartending and catering jobs from his uncle, he longs for a "real" job while pining for the carefree life he had in college.

While job hunting, Mark spends his time looking for love with his motley crew of best friends—Sally, Pete, and Kostas—and rooting for Boston College and New York's athletic teams to excel in football and basketball. He's a pretty serious sports fan, and just as serious about wanting to find someone special (or at times, just someone). But his wanting to find the perfect relationship sets him on the road to heartbreak a time or two—and confuses the heck out of him most of the time.

When Mark lands a job at Fishsoft, an up-and-coming tech company, he is excited about the opportunity, and despite having to negotiate some interesting office situations, he enjoys his job and excels at it. This is a time when email is just being introduced, a time before cell phones, and where laptops weighed almost as much as a desktop, but he revels in the success he is able to achieve.

Nothing truly earth-shattering happens in The Naive Guys, but that doesn't really matter. Patz has written a tremendously engaging book about a young guy trying to make it in the world, and doing his best to understand work, his family and friends, women, and the rapidly changing world around him. As the title promises, Mark can be a spectacularly naive character (at times nearly bordering on cluelessness), yet his sensitivity and his strong feelings about certain things (particularly sports) make him appealing.

While I really enjoyed the characters, what I enjoyed the most was Patz's pitch-perfect depiction of the world in the early to mid-1990s. From the advent of email and cell phones, to the portable Walkman and Discman (plus the adapter so you could listen to CDs in your car), to cultural touchstones like the first World Trade Center bombing, the 1992 presidential election, the Los Angeles Riots, and the OJ Simpson case, this book brought back so many memories and really made me say, "Wow, I remember feeling that same way!"

This was definitely a fun read, and proof that a book doesn't have to have an action-packed or drama-filled plot to be enjoyable. If you remember the early to mid-1990s, take this trip with Mark and his friends down memory lane...

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