Riley lives in TropeTown, where everyone plays stock roles in novels. Riley, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, is sent to group therapy after going off-script. Riley knows that breaking the rules again could get him terminated, yet he feels there must be more to life than recycling the same clichés for readers' entertainment. Then he meets Zelda, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Geek Chic subtype), and falls head over heels in love. Zelda's in therapy too, along with several other Manic Pixies. But TropeTown has a dark secret, and if Riley and his fellow Manic Pixies don't get to the bottom of it, they may all be terminated.
"Seventeen-year-old Riley is a fictional character, a trope, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy to be precise, the only one in Tropetown, since his best friend Finn disappeared. Riley's job is to appear as a character in various authors' books, though now he's telling readers his own story as he dreams of going off script to have adventures he creates himself, ideally shared with a beautiful Manic Pixie Dream Girl named Zelda. But there's a fly in the ointment: he's forbidden to date her because the two teens have been remanded to group therapy. Things get complicated when Riley is summoned to appear in a new novel-in-progress and meets Ava, the 'Central Developed' character. Fascination follows, but what about Zelda? And what's this? The town council has announced it is considering retiring the entire Manic Pixie Dream trope. Is it termination time? Appelhans' novel is a genial read, though its characters are mostly one dimensional, and its pace is slow. It is, however, redeemed by the cleverness of a premise that would make Pirandello proud."—Booklist—Journal
"Funny, romantic, and delightfully meta—The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project was a joy to read from beginning to end."—Jess Rothenberg, author of The Catastrophic History of You & Me and The Kingdom
"How long has it been since you had a good laugh? This book is the one you've been waiting for. Witty, sharp, surprising—a refreshing read."—Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death—Other Print
"Members of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy) Trope fight for the right to exist—in fiction and in their own lives—in this entertaining send-up of literary conventions. Riley, one of the few Manic Pixie Dream Boys residing in TropeTown (a place filled with familiar literary devices, situations, and characters), has been sent to behavioral therapy for deviating from the expected quirky fun he is supposed to bring to a novel. There he meets Zelda and other whimsical Manic Pixie Dream Girls who have been sent to therapy to learn to embrace their Trope. As a group, they would like to be taken seriously, but since the TropeTown Council has decided their type is problematic, they may be retired. With only a few days to avert their demise, they work hard to show the Council how charming, creative, and vibrant they are. Their plan is complicated by other potential futures, like planting in a novel (staying for good), seeing where the Termination Train may really lead, or accepting the small bit of freedom that being a Trope in TropeTown allows them. Appelhans's metafictional story asks if Tropes can live authentic lives, if they are doomed to live out other people's stories, or if they can steer their own path. Affable Riley's quest to be seen beyond labels and stereotypes and his desire for agency are feelings to which many Readers in Reader World will relate. VERDICT Recommend this well-crafted book to voracious readers of YA who will appreciate the satire."—School Library Journal—Journal
Lenore Appelhans is the author of several books for children and teens. Her work has appeared on the Bank Street Best Books list, won a SCBWI Crystal Kite award, and been featured on boxes of Cheerios. Lenore is an ambivert, a proud Slytherpuff, and a world traveler. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in the D.C. area with her family and her manic pixie dream cat.