Plot/Idea: McMahon delivers a deeply human and humor-filled story of a young man hopelessly in love and embroiled in the political career of his love interest's father.
Prose: Teddy's narration is immediately engrossing, warm, and gently self-deprecating. McMahon provides a skillful blend of candor and subtlety in the storytelling, with consistently memorable lines and passages throughout, along with a fresh and dynamic narrative structure.
Originality: Campus-based novels are a familiar sub-genre, but McMahon's blend of political machinations, endearing romance, and a sprinkling of mystery, add up to a unique and highly enjoyable read.
Character/Execution: Character development is top notch. Teddy's endearing voice will capture readers from the first page. Meanwhile, Charlotte Pennington is far more than an idealized senator's daughter Teddy pines for, but a whole and complex character in her own right.
Blurb: McMahon's smart and endearing Georgetown-based novel centers on a young man's unrequited love and embroilment in the political aspirations of his love interest's father.
Date Submitted: April 19, 2023
McMahon’s language is subtle and shrewd, and he’s adept both at backroom dialogue and polished political speechcraft and TV appearances. The different timelines and the sense—stirred by the title and Teddy’s arresting announcement that “I am writing this for you in case anything happens to me”—that a tragedy is looming will set readers on edge, especially as McMahon suggests that everything’s not exactly as Teddy perceives it to be. The happenings and discoveries of both timelines clash tellingly with each other, adding nicely to the tension. The characters, too, are well-etched and convincing; McMahon favors empathy and complexity over easy villainy, and in spite of their failings this cast succeeds in winning reader affection.
The intriguing, complex nature of Teddy’s love both for Charlotte and Conrad is delineated well. One final twist strains credulity, but McMahon writes with compelling power of the feeling of getting in too deep and possibly losing one’s self. A sharp line like this, about Teddy being handed a bag to vomit into, lingers after the last page is turned: “I deposited some jerk chicken and whatever was left of my soul into it.”
Takeaway: Compelling novel of love, politics, and the loss of one’s soul.
Comparable Titles: Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, Kennedy Ryan’s The Kingmaker.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“McMahon has concocted a taut thriller with twists and turns that start from the very beginning and don’t let up. Most of all, he has created a memorable cast, none of whom is without flaws . . . . Something else he does well? He leaves us wanting more . . . . We can only hope the rest of their tale is forthcoming—and that it will be as good a read as this one.”
"A book as thoughtful and charming as it is entertaining. Finally a DC mystery I can actually care about."