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The Hypothetical Girl Paperback – August 6, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[An] astonishingly inventive collection of stories...I don't think I've ever read anything more original..." —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

"With desperation or ambivalence, obsession or just plain hope, Cohen’s characters navigate the mysterious etiquette of digital-age romance, often getting lost in the fever of a potential idyllic relationship that falters by the first date. Though many of these stories parallel each other and occasionally slip into bitter, cynical narratives, Cohen is at her best when she departs from conventional romantic comedy plots and explores what we think about when we anticipate love." —Publishers Weekly

"A daring biopsy of what is rapidly becoming the dominant romantic conundrum; love between absolute strangers." —Los Angeles Review

"Clearly, this book is about the state of modern romance, but it's also about our timeless fascination with identity—a weighty subject that Cohen handles with intelligence and a dash of much-needed whimsical comedy." —Oprah.com 

"To describe the sharp and sensitive stories in Elizabeth Cohen’s collection The Hypothetical Girl as updates on the pursuit of love is to sell them short….a curious moment in time preserved and anatomized by an insightful writer." —Jill Magazine

“Cohen has the eye of an anthropologist, the wit of a satirist, and the brevity of a poet." —Jill Eisenstadt, author of From Rockaway and Kiss Out

"Elizabeth Cohen's stories, with their deep eternal truths, plop into the now with all the promise, hope and excitement of an IM from a secret love." —Wendy Lawless, author of Chanel Bonfire

“These stories kick some serious ass. If you're looking for love you'll find it right here!” —David Kidd, Emmy nominated television writer, producer and screenwriter of Yours, Mine and Ours

"I love these stories, each like a date with a great new match from Pretty Cool Fish, each with a man we want to trust but know we better not: Limericks, Harley rides, and, um, Shepherd’s pie, also hikes in Senegal, not. Are you ready to take the Love Quiz? Because The Hypothetical Girl will read you like a book. Elizabeth Cohen is a wise and funny and very appealing writer, and her women are more than worth worrying ourselves sick over. Then again, do you remember your last great kiss? Because here it is." —Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants

"These stories--full of surprise and humor and heart--will make you feel less alone. These stories (as the story “Limerence” suggests) may even help you survive. There is nothing hypothetical about this author’s talent; Elizabeth Cohen is the real deal." —Gayle Brandeis, author of Delta Girls and My Life with the Lincolns

“The Hypothetical Girl is a collection of wonderfully written stories that are about the age old desires for love, for recognition, for happiness but told through the thoroughly contemporary world of online dating. These tales are illustrations of what happens when everyday technology and dreams collide. Potential lovers think about each other, invent and reinvent themselves, come clean, come together, and come apart, but always with a belief and unshakable faith that love is always worth it. In this way, The Hypothetical Girl (a title I happen to love) exposes the romantic gambler in all of us.” —Whitney Otto, New York Times bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt

"Cohen is talented enough, to imbue the best stories—"Dog People," "The Man Who Made Whirlygigs," "The Opposite of Love"—with a sharp, distinctive quality as they show people tentatively using new tools in the age-old search for connection." —Kirkus

"The Hypothetical Girl
deconstructs online dating and mediated communication while exploring the role of both feminism and femininity and the experiences of women in this new landscape. Cohen plays with the concept of beauty and how it affects and worries women exactly the same way it did before the creation of the Internet. Cohen proves herself a talented author, and these stories are an entertaining testament to that." —The Coffin Factory

"Cohen's accomplished and funny first collection of stories cuts to the heart of the often heartless and "unfriendly" give and take of the world of Internet dating." —Shelf Awareness

[An] exceedingly creative debut...Each story captures ordinary life in such an amazing, deer-in-the-headlights sort of way. Cohen has a knack for seizing characters when they aren't expecting it, when they are vulnerable—when they are the perfect fodder for a good story. She takes ordinary and she makes it humorous, adventurous, and heartbreaking." —Bookslut

"Hypothetical Girl is a humorous, often sad and at times dark, exploration of the world of online dating. In each of Cohen’s fifteen stories exists a truth about the human experience." —The Masters Review

"Cohen brilliantly weaves a collection of mistaken attraction, vanity at its worse, stalking, loneliness, and secret fetishes...Her writing will shock and surprise you with unpredictable endings. Very simple and very honest, The Hypothetical Girl is a quick read you won’t want to put down." —At The Inkwell

"Stories at once hilarious, heartfelt, and (quietly, subtly) disturbing...[Hypothetical Girl] makes for a breathless, exciting reading experience." —Fiction Writers Review

"Cohen pushes genre boundaries...it’s gorgeous and heartbreaking. Definitely worth the read." —The California Journal of Women Writers

"Cohen writes with panache about the very particular afflictions of the web that arise when the division between real and not real becomes so murky. The fifteen tales are humane, if dark. Cohen maintains an edgy humor while looking clear eyed at what often goes wrong when her characters take risks...Cohen’s stories, written with sharp humor and intelligence, are attuned to both light and dark." —Cleaver Magazine

About the Author

Elizabeth Cohen is an assistant professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh, where she serves as the fiction editor for the Saranac Review. Her memoir, The Family on Beartown Road (Random House, 2003), was a New York Times Notable Book, and her articles, stories, and poetry have appeared in SELF, MORE, Newsweek, People, New York Times Magazine, Salon, Tablet, and the Yale Review, among other publications. She lives in Plattsburgh, New York, with her daughter, Ava.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159051582X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515822
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sophfronia Scott on November 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Cohen has written a smart and funny collection of stories that I would consider to be the "Sex & the City" of the online dating world. Her looking-for-love characters may not be as glamorous or as young as Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte, but they do have the same bittersweet vulnerability that made me want to root for their happy ending despite circumstances that seemed to be against every possibility for one. But that want pulled me through the book, story after story, and that's what a well-crafted collection does.

I've read reviews of this book commenting on certain repetitions--a sameness to the stories--but I believe Cohen is too fine a writer to be carelessly repetitive. Sometimes the art, especially in storytelling and in music, is all about the repetition. In "The Hypothetical Girl," Cohen is a jazz singer at the piano intent on tugging at your heart strings by singing you the saddest love song you've ever heard. In our time this song or story usually begins in front of a computer screen. The next thing you know, poems get written and sent, Skype sessions scheduled, girlfriends consulted, (some helpful and some not), and in-person meetings planned.

Yes, all this happens again and again in the stories, but these repetitions are important. They are a commentary on how there really is a devastating sameness to how these connections form, with the participants taking leave of all sense and reality while at the same time desperately wanting this fantasy to make sense and be real.

I like how Cohen, though, gives us the tonic for all this madness in the story "Limerence," in which the main character learns there is a word for suffering from unrequited love and this knowledge becomes a kind of comfort for him.
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Format: Paperback
From At The Inkwell:

That Crazy Thing Called Love: The Hypothetical Girl

Approaching someone you're attracted to can make some people sweat compulsively. Others close up like a clam and become the creepy wierdo women talk about the next morning with their girlfriends, while some are too scared to even say hello.

And so we retreat behind the screen thinking it would make this dating thing easier. But the digital realm is just as complex as it is face to face.

In The Hypothetical Girl, Elizabeth Cohen brilliantly weaves a collection of mistaken attraction, vanity at its worse, stalking, loneliness, and secret fetishes. It is anything but those cheesy I met my wife/husband/partner/lover online fairytales (although there are some happy endings). It's the stories that make us human in all our ugliness and beauty.

It's a man obsessed over a woman who rejects him and finds relief in a simple word that even I wish I'd known before- "Limerence" (look it up).

It's about "The Man Who Made Whirligigs" ditching a one-night stand at a truck stop for selfish reasons that make it hard for the reader not to side with.

It's a woman getting breast cancer and discovering solace in something "she could not name". It's the "Opposite of Love."

It's learning you don't send a free verse poem to strangers, thinking it's a cute turn-on as one friend tells another in "Death By Free Verse":

"Clear, short iambic pentameter poems with no more than two verses are okay before the first date, as are haiku, limericks, and tanka. No sonnets, villanelle or pantoums until at least three dates have gone by successfully. As for free verse love poems, save those for a one-year anniversary.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the way these stories all revolve around the theme of Internet social networking (sometimes as only a starting point), but each one is so individual and original, with so much authenticity and lyricism. I read each story as a gem, to be savored and mulled over. The deeply poetic and at times quirky observations of self and relationships create a work of wisdom, humor and pathos. I will look forward to other works by this fine writer!
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Format: Paperback
I think we can all agree that life itself can be difficult. Throw in dating and getting to know and trust someone and it can be downright scary. Today, because of the world we live in, many people turn to the internet to find happiness, companionship and love. In Elizabeth Cohen's book THE HYPOTHETICAL GIRL we are given the same warning that any good friend would offer when it comes to relationships: Enter at your own risk.

The book is a great collection of stories that take us into the lives of women and even men and their search for something more. Sometimes it would appear that things are going just as you might imagine. In others it is obvious that instead of running to each other, you are indeed in a path that will take you just past the individual you thought would be "the one", reminding you that not all that glitters is gold.

In the story LOVE, REALLY it is explained this way: "You want to believe in a future with the man. But the future is cloudy, like the lake that extends from your head now when you sleep is cloudy. You want to believe that love is strong. you want to believe...You realize that you and the man are having completely different experiences. You and he are not in the same love affair but in two separate ones. It is a mere coincidence that they happen to be with each other." Can you relate to that? And don't think that this is something solely reserved for online dating. In the story Dog People you are able to see how two people who actually meet are having (and feeling) two different ways---and how difficult it can be to finally let go and accept what is.

Does Elizabeth's book make you not want to go through the trouble of looking for that right person? Of course not! But it does make you wonder if you are being realistic while on your quest. Entertaining and reflective, THE HYPOTHETICAL GIRL hits just the right tone when it comes to the search for love.
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