Writer(s): Alex Robinson
Artist(s): Alex Robinson
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Page count: 128
Year Released: 2008
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: coming of age; magic realism; romance/relationships; teen/young adult
Recommended for Fans Of: Back to the Future; Peggy Sue Got Married
Possible Objectionable Material: coarse language
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Also in This Series: n/a
Andy Wicks is trying to quit smoking. He's tried all the standard methods: cold turkey, nicotine gum, the patch--everything. None of them worked, but for the sake of his wife and kids Andy relents to trying a professional hypnotist. Although he doesn't believe it will work, Andy is shocked to find himself transported from the hypnotist's chair to his high school's library, circa 1985. He finds himself reliving his sophomore year, a man trapped in a 15-year-old's body. Initially believing it to be an illusion, Andy soon realizes that regardless of what he's experiencing (a dream, a hypnotic state, or honest-to-goodness time travel), he needs to figure out what his 15-year-old self must do in order to return to the year 2008.
Once he reestablishes himself with his high school friends (most of whom he hasn't seen in 20 years) Andy remembers that he smoked his first cigarette at a party he'll (re)attend in just a few days. He decides that he's been sent back to change history: if he never takes that first puff then he'll never become a smoker. But can it be that simple? Or has Andy been brought to 1985 to confront something else entirely?
My Own 2 Cents
After Alex Robinson's leisurely paced, phonebook-sized tomes Box Office Poison and Tricked, this slim volume is without a doubt his most tightly plotted work. Like those previous books, Too Cool to Be Forgotten is still a character study, but with a recognizable beginning, middle, and end, and it moves at a fairly brisk pace. (No digressions here.) The depth of character Robinson's readers are used to may not be present in Too Cool (since, despite possessing a cast nearly as large as in his two previous books, the main character is the only one we get to know well), but it is nonetheless a brilliant evocation of high school life as seen through the eyes of an adult revisiting that world after a 20-year absence.
The book has all the familiar tropes of the (admittedly sparse) back-in-time genre, but instead of feeling like cliches Robinson utilizes them to illuminate some universal truth about life in high school. For instance, within minutes of finding himself back in high school Andy is bullied by a couple of idiots in the bathroom. But as this is happening Andy's adult self leads him to treat (and reflect upon) the encounter differently than he would have were he actually 15. Similarly, Andy attends his math class to discover that his teacher's lesson is completely indecipherable to his adult mind; even his own notebook, filled with alien theorems and equations, looks to him as if it were written by someone else. Then there's the absurdity of having to ask for permission to go to the bathroom, lunchroom table politics, the everpresence of raging teenage hormones, etcetera.
Happily, Andy also decides to do what I've often fantasized about doing, which is to correct some of the dumb mistakes he made as a kid and to seize some of the lost opportunities that now re-present themselves to him. This in itself seems to be a kind of therapy for Andy, and I have to admit I'd go to a hypnotist myself if I thought such second chances were a real possibility.
Through all this, Andy maintains a charming and insightful interior monologue that helps us re-experience the pain (and humor) of high school all over again. I can't say that this is Robinson's best book (any more than a fan of Melville would claim "Bartleby the Scrivener" is superior to Moby-Dick) but all his books are great--and Too Cool to Be Forgotten is certainly one of my favorite books published this year.
Writer(s): Alex Robinson