Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: "Love on the Big Screen" by William J. Torgerson

I don't know why I loved this book so much—maybe it's because I'm a child of the 80s, or because I'm obsessed with movies like the book's main character. But whatever the reason(s), I wouldn't have minded if this book was doubled in length, because I want to know what comes next for these characters.

In 1989, Eric "Zuke" Zauchas is a student at Pison Nazarene College, a small religious school in Indiana he chose because of the chance to play basketball, although he doesn't get the chance to play very much. He and his best friends are part of a club called the Brothers in Pursuit—while they do almost everything together anyway, every Sunday night they wear matching, embroidered boxer shorts and helmets, play games they invented, and report on their pursuits of truth, compassion, God, and women. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Zuke believes life should be like it is in the movies he watches—Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, The Princess Bride, and especially Say Anything. Like that movie's protagonist, Lloyd Dobler, Zuke believes he should pursue a dare-to-be-great situation, and he thinks he's found it in Abby, a girl in his English class. He devises a plan so that they're frequently together—he decides to become an English major like she is. They get along perfectly, and both feel a connection.

The challenge is, Abby happens to be dating Cheese (Brett), Pison's star basketball player. She's known Cheese nearly her entire life and thought of little but marrying him. Her relationship with Zuke has opened her eyes that perhaps she needs to expand her horizons a little bit. But will she break up with Cheese and start dating Zuke, or will she break Zuke's heart?

"All he wanted shimmered in foggy remembrances of relationships he'd seen on the big screen. Zuke wanted to be in the kiss at the end of the movie."

Meanwhile, things are exciting and stressful for the other Brothers in Pursuit as well. There's a surprise romance, a thwarted romance, taking control of your life when your plans have gone awry, even a little sexual identity crisis, which is particularly a big deal at a religious school. Plus the Brothers need to survive a WWE night with the guys down the hall—and their dorm keeps shaking, and they don't know why.

Love on the Big Screen is utterly charming, full of 80s nostalgia as well as the nostalgia of simpler times (although life didn't seem as simple). It's a story of friendship, romance, ambition, religion, forging your own path, even a little bit of heroics. And it has so much heart. This was one of those books that hooked me from the beginning because of its charm and its quirky characters. The story is simple, but it's high on entertainment value.

I'd love it if Torgerson wrote a sequel, because I'm dying to know what came next for Zuke and his friends.

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