Strengths: Nicholls has the nerdy boy thing down pat.
Weaknesses: Sometimes Brian can be cringeworthy.
Why I read it: Adored One Day.
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!