Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

A quick rundown… A slightly geeky boy’s first year at university – girls, booze and living away from home. You can imagine what happens next.

Strengths: Nicholls has the nerdy boy thing down pat.

Weaknesses: Sometimes Brian can be cringeworthy.

Why I read it: Adored One Day.

Pages: 352

Published: 2003

Publisher: Villard

Setting: England

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

If you liked this, try: Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls

Despite the title, this is not a book about dinner parties or working as a waiter. ‘Starter for ten’ refers to the game show University Challenge, of which Brian the protagonist is a little bit of a fan of. By the author of the acclaimed (and now slightly dodgy movie) book One Day, David Nicholls tells us the tale of Brian, a truly awkward teenager going to university in the 80s. Brian, brought up by his mother after his dad died, thinks he’s not too bad – he loves Kate Bush, has some pretty cool clothes and is sure he’s going to get somewhere with the girls at university where he’s reading English Literature. Unfortunately, he’s also kind of geeky and has the innate ability to create some situations that despite Brian’s best efforts are cringeworthy in a squeamish way.

Nicholls starts each chapter with a question and answer that would come from a University Challenge show. These kind of relate to the theme of the chapter as well as being a good trivia source. Despite Brian’s best intentions, he only scrapes onto his university’s team by default – and is caught between two girls, the gorgeously rich Alice and the tough Rebecca. This is kind of a stereotypical subplot, but it has some hilarious moments that you can’t help but snigger at.

While Brian’s awkwardness is charming at first, it does start to wear thin as it gets him into more and more trouble, with some scenes reading as more slapstick than Nick Hornby-esque fiction. Nicholls does realise this and while the ending is not life-changing, it does give a more realistic picture of Brian’s immaturity.

A very fast read, but a good one. I would recommend this for travel except for the fact you could laugh at some very inopportune moments!

9 thoughts on “Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

Add yours

  1. I didn’t like One Day at all but I’m definitely in the minority. I thought Nicholls was a good writer, though. Starter for Ten sounds like a book I’d like I usually enjoy books set on a campus, I think Nicholls is very good at character development and I love that Brian is a nerdy college freshman. This sounds like an entertaining light read which I’d like to try.
    Glad you enjoyed this book!

  2. I saw the movie based on this book, mostly because it starred the awesomely talented James McAvoy as the main character. There were definitely cringe-worthy parts in the film. For some reason, I had thought that Starter for Ten was somehow based on the author’s life in parts, but I don’t know where that came from. I enjoyed his book One Day.

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