THE ART OF PICKING UP GIRLS BY ERIC WALTERS
BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS - BY SARAH CASSIDY
I remember reading Eric Walters’ novels as a kid and getting lost in bits of Canadian history. Eric Walters is still writing and touring schools, to the delight of young readers. His latest novel is a departure from his typical fare of historical fiction, however.
The Art of Picking Up Girls (and Other Dangerous Things) is set in what could be present-day Toronto. Like bestselling author Sara Dessen, the bulk of the novel allows young readers to revel vicariously in G-rated romances—coffee dates, shared Coca-Colas, and the odd smooch. Importantly, though, the novel is about morality, empathy, and regret.
Graham is new to the big city after living 17 years in Woodstock. Ethan takes Graham under his wing, teaching him how to get over a lost love in Woodstock by filling time with meaningless dates. The key to never being hurt by girls is a quick escape route: false identities and no second dates. Trouble falls when Graham—using the moniker Dakota—falls for one of his targets, and must face losing everything by telling the truth.
When things go badly, Graham asks himself, “Did we ever get over anything, or did we just keep carrying everything around with us? Was that what wore people down, the burden of what had gone wrong in their lives, adding on and adding up until they collapsed under the accumulated weight of it all, all the regrets, all the bad decisions, all the sadness?” Powerful reflections on regret, coming from a 17-year-old!
The important lesson learned here occurs when Graham realizes that any action, right or wrong, can be justified, but empathy is needed to understand the real consequences our actions have on others.
Arguably well written, with characters you love to hate (or hate to love?), The Art of Picking Up Girls (and Other Dangerous Things) is a fun but meaningful adventure for maturing readers and teens.