Breaking up is hard to do. And do. And do. For Craig and Amy, their senior year of high school in mid-1990s suburban Wisconsin is a harrowing series of breakups and reunions. Craig admits from the start that he has "no business being with this girl" due to his innate "nerdishness" and the fact that she is "beautiful and perfect and ha[s] eyes like moonbeams or whatever." Be that as it may, this "superhot" girl who is "president of everything" falls for him. But she also keeps breaking up with him. In what may be one of the best variations ever on it's not you, it's me, she tells Craig (in breakup number five), "You didn't do anything wrong! We do things wrong together."
Craig's wry, self-absorbed and self-deprecating voice carries this slice-of-life love story to a higher plane. Readers, like Amy, will fall in love with him even as they want to shake him. When Amy communicates her fears and hopes, Craig can't help focusing on his own response: wondering if it's deep enough, plotting out witty and brilliant monologues and generally being too nervous to be in the moment with his girlfriend.
Playwright Don Zolidis's debut young adult novel is, not surprisingly, packed with fantastic dialogue and vivid staging. The Dungeons & Dragons scenes are particularly wonderful, with Craig and his friends geeking out over multifaceted dice and "thirteenth-level dwarven paladin[s]." A backdrop of family troubles (parental expectations, sibling rivalry, financial crises, health issues...) and concerns about life after high school flesh out the love story, making The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig a thoroughly absorbing, authentic and entertaining read. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor