Review of Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell

SFFaudio Review

Dear Girls Above MeDear Girls Above Me
By Charlie McDowell; Read by Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN: 9780804164207
Published: 4 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 6 minutes
Excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / neighbors / twitter / apartments / memoir / humor /

Publisher summary:

When Charlie McDowell began sharing his open letters to his noisy upstairs neighbors—two impossibly ditzy female roommates in their mid-twenties—on Twitter, his feed quickly went viral. His followers multiplied and he got the attention of everyone from celebrities to production studios to major media outlets such as Time and Glamour.  Now Dear Girls breaks out of the 140-character limit as Charlie imagines what would happen if he put the wisdom of the girls to the test.
After being unceremoniously dumped by the girl he was certain was “the one,” Charlie realized his neighbors’ conversations were not only amusing, but also offered him access to a completely uncensored woman’s perspective on the world. From the importance of effectively Facebook-stalking potential girlfriends and effortlessly pulling off pastel, to learning when in the early stages of dating is too presumptuous to bring a condom and how to turn food poisoning into a dieting advantage, the girls get Charlie into trouble, but they also get him out of it—without ever having a clue of their impact on him.

I admit that I procrastinated for a while over writing this review. Not because I didn’t like the book, which I did in a weird way, but more because I’m not quite sure what I thought of it.  I found out about the Dear Girls Above Me Twitter meme some time ago and I was always amused by the dry-witted observations of the author’s upstairs neighbors, two 20-something girls who say really stupid things.

“Dear Girls Above Me, ‘Like why isn’t the 4th of July on the 2nd of July? Who makes up when these holidays are gonna be anyway?’ Will Smith.”

“Dear GAM, ‘Mom, how are you not hearing me?! I forgot to send dad flowers because THERE’S A NEW KARDASHIAN!’ Happy Father’s Day, Kanye.”

A lot is said in less than 140 characters. Anyone who has ever had to live in close proximity to other people in an apartment complex can certainly relate. Goodness knows I can! This might explain why the meme became popular in the first place.

Does that make for a compelling book?  I’m not entirely sure.

I hesitated to try this book because I wondered how on earth the author was going to make a linear and compelling storyline out of the 140-character observations of his upstairs neighbors. The original meme had no linear storyline to begin with and seemed to serve as an outlet for Charlie’s frustrations at how inane his neighbors could be. So how was this going to be turned into a book?

By creating a small bit of a plot.

You have this mid-20-something who lives in Los Angeles with a longtime roommate who may or may not be gay (a constant source of speculation on the part of the author) named Charlie. Charlie and his longtime girlfriend break up. As he is getting over the pain of his breakup, he notices that he has some new upstairs neighbors, two very loud and very bubble-headed early-20 something girls named Cathy and Claire. Charlie can hear them in his apartment but they, for some odd reason, cannot hear him. So he is forced to hear every inane topic of conversation they have and he turns his rage at their loud conversations into Twitter gold. Eventually he gets to know them a little bit more after he goes upstairs to talk to them and gets sucked into a loud party the girls are hosting, and the girls never seem to remember who he is.

The rest of the story meanders through his fledgling love life, such as his trying to reconnect with the former hot girl from his high school graduating class, and his other observations about apartment life (the neighbor who tries to get her dog to have playdates with Charlie’s dog) and his family, since his mother is apparently an Oscar-winning actress, and punctuating his observations with quotes from the girls above him. Each chapter ends with some of Twitter quotes from the girls.

While his observations are written in that dry style that I like, I kept wondering when an actual story was going to come in. The entire book felt more like the stream-of-consciousness journal of a 20-something guy and I felt myself tuning out sometimes as he went on and on about trying to look on Facebook for the former hot girl he crushed on in high school or having to see as a thirteen-year-old his best friend become aroused at seeing his partially naked mother on a late night movie channel.

I prefer books that have a clear plot to them that leads to a good conclusion and there was nothing like that in this book. There was no story to really drive the book along, so when the end finally did come, it left me feeling more like “wow, that’s it?” It felt so abrupt.

In short, if you enjoy reading rambling books that don’t really have much of a plot to follow, then this would be for you. Do be aware that there is some language and sexual situations, none of which bothered me, but I know some people are sensitive about those things.

As for the audiobook itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the person who read the book. Even if the meanderings of this book left me a little bored at times, I was certainly not bored by the audio reading. I thought that was the best part. Not only did his voice fit the character of the author very well, but also his impressions of Cathy and Claire, the girls who live above Charlie, were hilarious. I found myself cracking up often at hearing his otherwise serious voice speak their dialogue in such a dim-witted Valley Girl voice. It really made the characters in this story come to life.

Review by Cecilee Linke.

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