Hypothetical GirlFinding love has always been fraught with challenges, and in our modern age of on-line dating it’s become even more perplexing. In Elizabeth Cohen’s collection of short stories in her latest release The Hypothetical Girl people turn to the Internet to find true love.

Well, replacing face to face contact with digital dating doesn’t exactly make things easier in the romance department. In fact, it often makes things harder and hearts do get broken as Cohen conveys in this mostly satisfying book.

In “People Who Live Far, Far Away” a man and a woman meet on Catch.com (get it?). He pretends to be yak farmer and she pretends to be a poet, model and actress whose sole film credit is her legs the opening credits of a Jim Carrey movie. Are these two trying to “Catfish” each other or do they think they have to make up on-line personalities because they don’t think they are worthy of love the way they truly are?

“Death by Free Verse” a couple bonds and flirts through sassy limericks, but things just might go awry when the lady half of this would-be couple sends the man a heartfelt love poem.

Love triangles hurt on-line as much as they do in real life, and in “The Opposite of Love” one woman stricken with breast cancer finds herself being edged-out of a support group on-line forum as two others forum residents bond, meet and fall in love. However, love doesn’t always run smoothly and can end in sorrow.

In “The Man Who Made Whirligigs” on-line flirtation leads to a one-night stand, which then leads to being stood up at a truck stop. Hmm, sounds like a couple who should meet again on “Jerry Springer.”

And “Love Quiz” examines those hideous quizzes we find in “Cosmo” magazine that we take against our better judgment as if they are a true reflection of who were are and what we are looking for when it comes to romance.

Some stories don’t always work. I found the opening story, “Animal Story” a bit too slow-paced, which could have kept me from reading further. And the final story “Stupid Humans”, which is a about a polar bear and deer falling in love via Skype just seemed out of place in a collection of stories filled with flawed humans. Or maybe I just wasn’t able to suspend my imagination that day?

Still, I did enjoy the book. Cohen is able to write characters that are fully-dimensional and stories that ring true even if you’ve never tried on-line dating. The Hypothetical Girl examines themes of romance, lust, heartbreak, delusion, connections, flirtation and yes, hoping that there truly is that soul mate out there…somewhere.

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