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A collection of short stories by author Kristen Roupenian, whose story "Cat Person" was published in the New Yorker and met with critical acclaim.

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  • The Big Damn Kiss: Ted and Anna from "The Good Guy" do end up kissing (and getting together), though he doesn't seem to be very happy in that relationship either, as he's said to cheat on her with multiple partners afterwards.
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  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Tilly from "Sardines" is on her way to becoming this, though she's only ten.
  • Children Are Cruel: Implied in "The Good Guy." There was a rumour in elementary school that she liked to masturbate with My Little Pony dolls, presumably from being caught playing with them one time too many.
    • Of course, Tilly from "Sardines" is this.
    • The sixth year students in "The Night Runner", who are notoriously cruel to the point that teachers are scared of working with them.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Rachel Derwin-Finkle in "The Good Guy". When Ted even mentions Anna in a conversation, she gets mad and accuses him of having a crush on her. Of course, she's right, but in her case the assumption was baseless nonetheless.
  • Descent into Addiction: Implied at the end of "Death Wish", as the narrator mentions going to AA meetings (though he admits he never committed to the 12 Steps). Whether or not he was an alcoholic before the incident is ambiguous.
    • This is also implied for Anna Travis from "The Good Guy". Ted suspects she might have been in a recovery program due to the motivational quotes she keeps posting online.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: "The Good Guy" gives us Ted as a Deconstructed Character Archetype. While he's initially a fairly straight example, after it works for him the first time he starts leaning into this persona to get into scores of temporary relationships, realizing that most women will eventually talk themselves into settling for him if he portrays himself this way. The reason he doesn't stick with any of these women is that he's come to realize that being settled for really, really sucks, and he'd rather just have meaningless sex.
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  • Entitled to Have You: "The Good Guy" not only explores this as expected with Dogged Nice Guy Ted, but turns the situation on its head by speculating that Anna and her ilk feel entitled to him because they're the ones punching below their weight and therefore can't handle being dumped by him:
    They identify all sorts of problems in him that he needs them to fix: he isn't "in touch with his emotions," or he's "afraid of commitment," but they never question the basic premise, that somewhere deep down, underneath it all, he wants to be with them. Of course you have feelings for me, Angela might as well have been saying, right before she threw the glass at him. Admit it, dammit!
    I'm me.
    And you're Ted.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In "The Good Guy", Ted - who is unattractive and shy by his own admission - is repulsed by the thought of dating Rachel Derwin-Finkle. Averted in that he does get together with her in the end, albeit because he doesn't have any other options.
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  • First Love: Anna was this to Ted (though whether it's love is debatable).
  • Food Slap: "The Good Guy" begins with Ted having a conversation with an ex-girlfriend that ends in her throwing a glass tumbler full of ice water at him, shattering it against his forehead. An unusual deadly case as it's implied that one of the shards causes him to bleed out.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Aaron from "The Night Runner", who tries his best to be a good teacher but doesn't understand the culture or motivations behind any of the girls he's teaching.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As he grows older, Ted from "The Good Guy" starts to consider himself as this:
    Listen. Listen. I can explain. There's a bad Ted underneath the good Ted, yes, but then under that, there's a Ted that's good for real. But no one ever sees him; his whole life, no one ever has. Underneath it all, I'm just that kid who wanted nothing more than to be loved and didn't know how to make it happen, even though I tried and tried and tried.
  • Loving a Shadow: A theme throughout the book, but particularly explored in "Cat Person" with Margot's perpetually shifting perception of Robert (and, on the other end, Robert's perception of her).
    Every so often, over the next day or so, she would find herself in a gray, daydreamy mood, missing something, and she'd realize that it was Robert she missed, not the real Robert but the Robert she'd imagined on the other end of all those text messages during break.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: In "The Good Guy," the entire narrative is implied to be this, with Ted being wounded in the head by a shattered tumbler and bleeding at least to the point of unconsciousness by the end of the story as a Framing Device.
  • Nice Girl: Margot from "Cat Person", occasional shallowness and bad judgement aside. She goes through with a sexual encounter with Robert simply because she doesn't have the heart to say no.
    • Anna Travis appears to be this, as well, despite how badly she treated Ted as a teenager.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Angela from "The Good Guy". She throws a glass at Ted once he breaks up with her.
  • Questionable Consent: In "Bad Boy", it's only ambiguous whether the titular character agreed to a sexual relationship in the first place.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: Played for Drama (and Played for Horror) in "Bad Boy". A friend comes to stay with a couple in their tiny apartment. Eventually, they can't get off without him being present, so they eventually bully him into watching them (and it's not even clear if he consented in the first place).
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Rampant in "The Good Guy", as should be expected due to the characters' ages. Anna is this to Marco, and Rachel is this to Ted.
  • Shout-Out: Is it a coincidence that the main characters in "Cat Person" are named Margot and Robert?
  • Uncertain Doom: "The Good Guy."

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