I have spent most of my adult life living in apartments except for one glorious year when a couple of friends and me rented a house in grad school. So, that means I have spent most of my adult life knowing way too much about my neighbors. I mean, WAY. TOO. MUCH. Luckily where I am now, the walls seem a bit thicker than the last place but if you are having a conversation in the parking lot outside my window, I know everything you are saying. Which has its funny moments (the time two guys were obviously lost looking for their buddy’s apartment but argued for ten minutes in the parking lot about whether they should call him and admit they were lost or just keep driving around the complex) and its not so funny moments (the recent large group of people having really loud discussions about their bar experience at 3AM this past weekend). I have sadly never had a useful neighbor to eavesdrop on like Charlie McDowell.
Dear Girls Above Me: Inspired by a True Story is based on McDowell’s experience in living in an apartment below two women who, well, are about as stereotypical as they can get. He doesn’t mean to eavesdrop quite so much but well, he can hear everything they are saying whether he wants to or not. This leads to McDowells’ twitter feed Dear Girls Above Me and subsequently this book. McDowell is low after a recent breakup and lack of direction in his life in general it seems. The girls above him give him something to focus and comment on and he even learns a few things while eavesdropping. There are, of course, hijinks and misunderstandings and some TMI moments, as happens in any memoir-type story, but in general, I laughed my way through this book in two sittings. McDowell’s humor is spot on for this type of story.
Now, as you can imagine, this book does verge on creepy at times. McDowell is listening to everything his upstairs neighbors are talking about and at one point, becomes so invested he tries to cook the same thing at the same time in the hopes he can keep them from burning the dish.. However, it never steps over the boundary where you have to go, um, dude? not OK. I think that is because McDowell himself gets the creepiness factor and openly comments on it which instantly makes me be OK, I’ve done that when I heard something about my neighbor I probably shouldn’t have known so we’re good here. McDowell is also very funny and extremely likable in his writing style which goes a long way to making the chapters, which are able to stand on their own as vignettes for the most part, enjoyable even when the topic is a little much (I am thinking of the last chapter’s plumbing problem which was a bit gross. Well, a lot gross). I also liked the use of the original tweets in the book since I missed this account some how, it was an easy way to get caught up with the back story that inspired the book.
McDowell is apparently the son of some well known movie stars which I didn’t realize until halfway through the book which I liked; he clearly wasn’t riding those coattails and also, it was refreshing that the book wasn’t about the 20-something’s struggle to survive in LA. I didn’t even notice that usual trope was missing until after I made the connection to who he was. It was nice to have someone who wanted to work, and was, but didn’t worry about where the rent check money was coming from. I mean, McDowell seems to be perpetually late with the rent but that seemed to be just who he was, not that he didn’t have the money. In general, I seriously laughed hysterically throughout this book so if you’re looking for some humor and you ever lived in an apartment where you knew more about your neighbors than you ever needed to, read McDowell’s take on the girls upstairs.