E. M. Collyer, author
Synopsis "Hermit Girl" “Just because I’m shy, just because I’d rather die and be buried in a shallow, unmarked grave than talk to new people, that doesn’t mean I’m easy, or desperate, or even the slightest bit interested in you. Just because my stupid face turns red when you look at me that doesn’t mean I’m not quietly putting a curse on you and your entire future line of inbred offspring. I’m just a raging extrovert stuck in an introvert’s body.” The terminally shy but highly sarcastic Willow struggles to make her life take shape. From a non-existent love-life, to a dad who vanished on her tenth birthday, to an overbearing mom who refuses to move out, every facet of her life seems to relish in bringing her more aggravation than joy. But there’s one ray of light: Somewhat-Square-Jawed Bailey, the nut shop clerk who tickles her brain with wonderfully unexpected remarks on life, death, and the finer points of nut-enthusiasm. She’s going to spend her life with him, even if he doesn’t know it yet. So, to prepare for the scariest act of her life (actually talking to him), Willow sets up a YouTube channel to workshop her seduction strategy. On this channel she explores ancient hurdles like the ‘Intro’ (“you only get one chance at a first impression on a guy: think of this as brain surgery, only slightly more important”), and the ‘3 Minute Rule’ (“when talking to a guy, you have exactly 3 minutes to show him you’re dating material or he’ll subconsciously put you in the bimbo-zone.”). Chloe, one of the hapless few who actually follow Willow’s channel, savagely miss-applies all of Willow’s advice and suddenly finds herself in dating heaven, hunted by Brads and Toms and even by Somewhat-Square-Jawed Bailey himself. Willow is devastated. To top it off, she starts receiving mysterious messages from a man claiming to be her long lost father. Mom is no help (“It’s probably just a computer virus, pretty soon it’ll ask you for money.”) In fact, she forbids Willow to dig into her past. Confused, Willow refocuses her efforts on Cyrano-ing SSJ Bailey away from Chloe, i.e. loading her channel with terrible advice aimed at destroying their relationship. Sadly, it’s too late. Chloe has Bailey completely under her spell. Out of options, Willow is forced to change gears and wean off the drug that is SSJ Bailey. But this is far from easy. With over a million romantic books and movies, she can’t find a single serious effort on how best to un-fall in love. 6000 years of human civilization has really dropped the ball on this one. It’s up to Willow to create the first ever, scientifically tested, sure-fire heartache cure. It’ll take immense dedication, but Willow is the woman for the job. She begins to tiptoe outside the confines of her safe, familiar world, meeting up with her eclectic band of followers (“like Anatova, a Russian pensioner with a hard face that says her life has mostly been about survival. She’s not exactly fat, but she’s built in that old world way that lets you know that women can and do beat up on their men.”). But the mysterious messages persist, offering more and more proof that they’re really from her biological father. Eventually Willow’s curiosity gets the better of her and she agrees to a meet-up. But what is supposed to be a beautiful moment of revenge for years of parental neglect, turns into a perplexing conversation. Her father unexpectedly opens up (“You had this really strange way of looking at the world when you were little, Willow. But then you’d explain it to us, this little girl holding miniature lectures for her parents, and suddenly it’d be impossible for us _not_ to see the world through your eyes.”). And he hints at something else, something devastating that happened at the time of his disappearance. Willow doesn’t want to hear. She fears something dark lurking inside the explanations and inside herself. She flees and buries herself in her work, focusing once again on her anti-heartache cure. And for once she seems to be getting somewhere. While workshopping ideas with her followers she comes up with a plan that lets her step back and see things from a different angle. She starts to realize that running is rarely the only answer and even agrees to another meet-up with her father. Together they unlock the memory of her older sister’s death (‘Alice was the only person who understood me. This is a crazy, messed up world and she promised we’d figure it out together!’). At this crucial moment, SSJ Bailey pops up again, trying to pull Willow back in, trying to make her his ‘backup-chick’. But to her relief, Willow finds that her cure is actually working. She doesn’t need Bailey anymore. She doesn’t need anyone to fix her life for her. She can do it herself. Armed with this new insight and an updated plan, Willow sets out to not only heal herself and her broken family, but to become a big sister to her followers.