“Reality Bites,” declared the 1994 film of the same name heralded by many as the definitive treatment of love-related woes among 20-something Generation Xers. In “Good Kids,” the debut novel by Benjamin Nugent (author of the witty and perceptive nonfiction work “American Nerd: The Story of My People”), fantasy gets its comeuppance. A cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in dreaming of an alternate life, “Good Kids” is a tragicomic, minimally derivative addition to the much-excavated genre of early adulthood relationship angst.
Of course, even older adults wrestle with the centrifugal forces of amour. Indeed, Nugent begins the story in 1994 by having narrator Josh Paquette and classmate Khadijah Silverglate-Dunn, 15-year-old residents of the fictitious Western Massachusetts town of Wattsbury (Nugent grew up in Amherst and lives in Boston), spying his father and her mother kissing. This discovery forges a double-bond between Josh and Khadijah: mutual attraction and a vow never to cheat on their future spouses.