Next, by James Hynes, follows an arc that’s been used before — it’s told from our narrator’s viewpoint over the course of one day. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this story is garden-variety in any way, shape, or form.
Our protagonist’s name is Kevin Quinn, and he’s in a place in his life where he’s just not sure what he should do next. He doesn’t feel that he’s accomplished what he wants to or what he’s capable of, professionally and romantically, and is contemplating making a big change. On the day in question, he flies from Ann Arbor, Michigan , to Austin, Texas, for a job interview. He does this without telling his live-in girlfriend (who’s out of town). He’s also not sure what he will do if he actually gets the job. But he clearly wants to challenge himself and his status quo, at least in his mind.
Kevin’s journey takes place shortly after a terrorist attack in Scotland in which a man named Kevin Quinn blew up a train station. Paranoia about a terrorist attack, coupled with Kevin’s fear of flying, put him on edge during his flight, although he’s quite distracted by the pretty young woman next to him on the plane.
He arrives in Austin several hours early for the interview, so he decides to prowl the city to look for the woman who sat next to him on the plane. As he behaves like a tenth-grader with a crush, he flashes back often to give details of some of the formative moments of his life back in Michigan. I personally enjoyed not only the flashbacks to Ann Arbor, but also his activities in Austin as he epitomizes the hopeless, hapless buffoon trying to get lucky. Thoroughly enjoyable and relatable.
Then, as you’ll note from any other review you read of this book, the final 50 pages of the story take you to a place that you have probably never put yourself in before. I won’t give any spoilers, but the last part of this book might just blow your mind. Big ups to Hynes for being able to tell the last part of this story in such a compelling and downright terrifying way.