Monday, March 9, 2009


Damn! Two books reviews in a row? What's up with that?

Every so often, I’ve had ‘The Dream.’ No, not the dream of flying. Or of being kidnapped by aliens. Or even the one where I’m one of the Hardy Boys and I’ve been dropped into the middle of Jurassic Park and have to fight my way out with a lightsaber. I’m talking about...'The High School' dream.

You know, those bizarre dreams where you're back in the angst-ridden halls of high school, and you can’t remember your locker combo, or where your next class is, or why the principal suddenly suggests having a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat revival show in the gymnasium with the original cast, and no one remembers the lyrics. Those dreams.

In Too Cool to be Forgotten, Andy Wicks is a forty-something year old trying to kick his addiction to cigarettes. He’s tried it all: patches, gum, cold turkey, etc. Finally, he goes in for a little hypnosis. There’s a little side effect, however, and before Andy knows it, he’s suddenly back in high school, circa 1985, complete with braces, glasses, and a full head of hair. Andy soon realizes his arrival coincides with his first attempt at smoking (to impress a girl, natch), and vows not to cave in to peer pressure.

So begins Andy’s days back in high school, remembering old friends, old crushes, and the occasional ‘Randi Whatshername.’ It’s a hilarious notion, considering the popularity of Facebook, where friend requests come from old classmates who you didn’t even really speak to in high school, but can’t help re-connecting with out of curiosity. “Whatever happened to Randi Whatshername anyway?” you ask. By accepting her friend request, you can see what her ‘status’ is anytime you want!

The notion at the heart of Too Cool is, of course, the idea that each small action forms a person into who they will ultimately become. Will abstaining from that cigarette, that one time, change Andy’s future? It’s hard to say. And haven’t we all faced that question. What if I had kissed that girl at the prom? What if I had decked that guy in the face for making fun of Randi Whatshername? What if I hadn’t dressed up in KISS make-up?

At one point, facing the possibility of re-living his formative years over again, Andy panics, wondering if he will have to endure the heartbreaks and agonizing choices he faced in his life, and whether they will lead him back to his wife and children. It’s a heartbreaking notion. I mean, the guy just wanted to kick a little nicotine.

Like all good episodes of Quantum Leap (yeah, I said it), Andy's assumption about his actual purpose in 1985 is misleading. The ending (no spoilers here) is a bit convenient, as Andy comes to a sudden realization about his family. Given my own life experiences, though, I felt a personal connection to the ending, and to its heartfelt, tender, and poignant moments.

Too Cool was my introduction to author and artist Alex Robinson’s work (which includes the graphic novels Tricked and Box Office Poison). It’s a unique book that reminds you what it was like to be in the war zone of high school, and how your choices define you. It does not, however, remind you about your locker combination.

Oh, and kids? Don’t smoke. It’ll kill ya.

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