The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
Wes and June don't have a fun "how we met" story. They kinda, sorta, literally bumped into each other after floating in and out of each others orbits at school.
Wes had broken up with his girlfriend and the beginning of the school year and June had just moved to Minnesota--her sixth move in four years due to her father's job as a workout specialist (not as in gym club but as in turning failing companies around). Wes was flailing through life, not really sure what was going on with himself and June was, well, essentially consolation-dating his best friend, Jerry. After so many moves she had her friend-making plans down pat--"find a group of girls she could hang with, and a guy." If she hung out with the book club she'd end up with a "moody Chuck Palahniuk/Kurt Vonnegue/Life-Sucks-and-Then-You-Die" brooder. If she joined the high-fashion crowd it would be "a guy witha thumb ring, always playing with his hair and agonizing over the length of his jeans." And, if she tried out for cheerleading she'd end up with some jock. In the end, June befriends a trio of girls self-named "The Three Bitches" (like Musketeers) who have the self-appointed job of having fun. Things roll along smoothly between Wes and June and their respective friends and social circles until the night the literally knock each other senseless in a grocery store. June, for all her moving and leaving things behind, suddenly wants to belong and create more permanent relationships. Wes, after being unfocused in school and in life suddenly finds his life and wildly fluctuating emotions revolving around June and what she is doing--these wild emotions end up hurting and costing him his best friend. This story isn't about a passionate romance with adventure and jealousies. This is the subtle story of two people who didn't think they needed each other finding out what it means to be in love.
The story of Wes and June was a layered and quiet story of two young people finding their place in life and what they want out of it. Both of them were good, solid characters. I liked how June had names for the different voices she heard in her head--Sarcastic Jane, Pragmatic Jane, Scornful Jane, etc. It was easy for me to connect with June when I was able to hear all of her different voices so you could really know what was going on with her--moving so often and following the beliefs of her father ("There is no reverse in Time Machine") has to be hard on a teenager but her parents not allowing her to keep any connection to friends she made was really kinda mean. Wes was a little more enigmatic--he fluctuates between being focused on life and school and then he changes direction and becomes obsessed with cleaning out the family's garage. He seems like he is floating through life and, even before the break-up with his first girlfriend, had a hard time making an emotional connection with the people (outside of his family) in his circle.
Let me first get this out of the way because it bugged for the first few chapters of the book--the jacket flap talked about the main girl character as "Jen" so when I started reading the book and it was actually "June" it jogged me off course a bit. After a while she made jokes about her name and I got over it and started to really enjoy the journey that she and Wes took to find each other and stay together. It was a nice quiet, romantic story and after all the fantasy, high adventure books I had been reading lately it was a good change. There really wasn't a plot to follow except for how knowing each other changed the course of June and Wes's lives and how they chose to go forward to the future. No more "There is no reverse in Time Machine" for June who wants to forge a connection with people instead of starting with a sad, blank slate every few months. No more unfocused life meandering for Wes--he starts to show some ambition when he has a goal in mind that revolves around June and their future. In the end it was a good, solid read about a growing relationship but the lack of tension or any significant build-up to major events became a little bit of a downside for me. I'm all for quiet and sweet and happy but there's also something to be said for overcoming some major adversity to really prove your love and devotion. Although, I will give Wes props for "borrowing" his friend's car, driving four hours to where June was and ultimately getting arrested just to see her. Finally, I really appreciated that the author split the point of view between June and Wes. He didn't use the same-old, same-old of switching first person narrative between chapters but in this case it was third person and the points of view were alternated within the chapters.