5 out of 5
Aw man, this is the kind of story that makes me wish I wrote it. From the wayward way into the setup, to the character work, to the climax and payoff… even the title: They’re all elements that make for an incredibly satisfying whole.
Soleil is driving to her date with Warren, so we assume this is likely going to be a relationship book. She runs out of gas in the first sentence, though, so maybe this will be a “makes you appreciate the little things” type calamity-filled adventure on its way to being a relationship book. …Although there’s a hint of danger when a car swerves around her stopped one on the road, and she notes the two men inside, so maybe this will be something more female-centric and reflective. Author Chris Drangle has Soleil take a brief inventory of her status over the next couple pages, not indicating which hand he’s planning to deal us. Lo, Soleil’s thoughts are pretty organic, and unusually open-ended for any of the above mentioned subgenres.
We switch to Warren’s point of view, waiting for Soleil to arrive, and the POV switching and the paralleling of Warren’s thoughts to Soleil’s gives the story a hint of observational comedy. Okay, maybe that’s the direction we’re going. But as Warren gives up on his late-to-arrive date and walks away, spotting something odd in the forest, the story heads down a completely unexpected path.
And Drangle ends up playing his hand magnificently, evolving our understanding of the story in time with his characters, while also letting us in ever so slightly with mentions of behaviors and thoughts, in no way sacrificing the Soleil / Warren counterpoints he had slickly set up for the sake of plot twists and turns. It manages to be a mini character drama while also an incredibly thrilling and shocking ride, and that damned title cracks me up.
This is absolutely a writer I’ll be keeping an eye out for.