Next Best Thing

Miller Hoffman #2

Fiction - Literary
356 Pages
Reviewed on 04/04/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Zelmer Wilson (1975- ) was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. At the age of three, he moved with his family to Fort Smith, Arkansas. He would live there until he was eleven years old. In the summer of 1986, he left Arkansas and moved to Phoenix, Arizona with his father and stepmother. During the summer of 1990, while visiting his mother and two sisters in Birmingham, Alabama, he discovered his calling in life, to be a writer. His debut novel, In the Middle, is inspired by his own difficult teenage years in Phoenix, Arizona.

His influences are Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Larry Brown, Janet Fitch, and James Ellroy.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite

Although I didn’t read the first book in the Miller Hoffman series by Zelmer Wilson, this second entry, Next Best Thing, reads so well and it is absorbing. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the book is character-driven, and the internal conflict is superbly explored. Miller Hoffman, a bright young man has just left his girlfriend, Bobbie Lamont, when he transfers to Birmingham City College in an effort to get free from the iron grip of a controlling father. But can he get over Bobbie? Now in a new setting, he is with an old pal, Sartre. While he is in an intellectually stimulating environment, his emotions will be tested by his rival William Van Norton, and the seductive Michelle Conner could be a new chapter in his life. And will the next big thing for him be sex or can he find true love?

An emotionally charged story that explores the dynamism of relationships, allowing readers to have a clear idea of what relationships can do to a college student and what makes them important. The characters are so well-developed. Sartre is like a brother to Miller, the only person who could convince him to leave Arkansas and settle for Birmingham City University. Michelle is the kind of woman who plays with fire, a girl with an unusual sex life, and so beautiful that she gets just about any boy or girl she wants. It is interesting to see the role she plays in the lives of Miller and William. The writing is exquisite and the word use stellar. Zelmer Wilson crafts dialogues that are interesting and natural, and creates scenes that are vivid, coupled with intense action, but it is how he brings college culture into the novel that had me rooting for this book. Next Best Thing is a story that has strong psychological underpinnings, and is engaging and entertaining.

Romuald Dzemo

Next Best Thing is the second book in the Miller Hoffman series by Zelmer Wilson, a character-driven story with great potential for entertainment. The reader is introduced to the protagonist, a young man on a bus, dreaming of a girlfriend he’s left behind. Miller Hoffman transfers to Birmingham City College, but he can’t easily get over his girlfriend, Bobbie Lamont. Follow this young man through a period of three years as he reconnects with an old friend, finds new adversaries, and becomes involved with Michelle Connor, a girl who will transform his life and affect him in many ways, but can he find love with her?

I was almost turned off by the author starting this book with a cliché — it begins with a dream and I hate books that begin with a dream. But this one just happened to be fitting and reflected the state of mind of the protagonist. I am happy I read on because the story offers great entertainment and is one of those stories that will remind older folk of their first attempts at love, of the heartaches, of the frustrations of not knowing precisely which path to follow. The writing is polished and it has a quality of music and elegance that derive from an author’s confidence.

Zelmer Wilson is good at infusing a strong psychological perspective to a story, giving it a life of its own while allowing readers to navigate the different climates of the souls of the characters. This novel can be read as a coming of age story, one that explores college life and the places where young men and women learn the greatest lessons of their lives. As one reads on, one gets to determine the role that love and sex play in one’s emotional growth. Apart from enjoying the great writing and the strong character development, I was hooked by the handling of the emotional and psychological conflicts in the novel.

Christian Sia

Next Best Thing is the second book in the Miller Hoffman series, a book that follows the life of an unusually intelligent young college student with huge psychological and emotional baggage to carry. It’s a story that deals with his relationship with his father, his best friend, and a woman he left behind. But it is also a story of his adventure with college sex. Persuaded by his best friend Sartre, Miller leaves Arkansas and enrolls in Birmingham City College where he meets the cocky William Van Norton. His relationship with William results in a competition that may have strong emotional implications. While he still dreams of Bobbie, his ex, a new and charming girl, Michelle, introduces Miller to sexual pleasures he has never known before. But how long can it last?

Love and friendship, personal development, sex and lust, and family are some of the themes developed in this novel and these themes come out in a very powerful way through the beautiful and crisp prose. The plot is well-imagined and the author uses conflict to drive both plot points and character development. Here is one of those books that make me want to go back to college again because the author makes readers feel what it is like to be a student. The writing is very confident and the reader is left in no doubt that they are dealing with a master storyteller. The author shows a deft handling of the different stylistic elements, including humor, contrast, and suspense, making the reading experience an enjoyable one for readers. Next Best Thing is a great book — awesome characters, fast-paced, and with an intriguing plot.