George is a bitter thirty-something bookstore owner who loves great literature and despises low-brow books like ‘My Kinky Life’ and other similar potboilers. George lives virtually secluded in his store and rarely emerges to see the world. One day, a young video-addicted seventeen-year-old, Bryan, is told by his mother Nancy to start spending time with George and read books.
Bryan is skeptical about reading and about George’s knowledge. George shares the standoffish attitude. But when he finds out that Bryan is in love with a pretty girl (Lisa), George offers to use his knowledge of books and his romantic Italian nature to help Bryan win over the girl.
At first, Bryan refuses George’s help. Later, however, when he sees that George’s girlfriend (Susan) is a knockout, he relents and begs George to help him win over Lisa.
George is able to pay his rent thanks to the help of a former high school classmate, Arthur, a pompous and self-aggrandizing man who has become a successful writer. Arthur buys a rare Tom Sawyer first edition from George.
George embarks on a journey to transform Bryan, a slovenly book-averse boy, into a well-dressed, cultured, Italian-speaking young man.
In the meantime, George has a deadline: he has a book deal and has been paid to produce the first chapter of his novel. Having to struggle with an increasingly unpopular store and with troubles with his girlfriend, George is unable to find the inspiration to write the book and risks losing the deal. For his part, Bryan criticizes George for being too angry at the world, as well as for talking a good talk but not actually writing anything of his own.
George manages to help Bryan date Lisa, but then she leaves Bryan for the “bad boy” Josh. Bryan becomes resentful of George and the two have a falling out.
In the meantime, Arthur asks George to organize a book launch for his latest publication. The initiative is a fiasco and Arthur blames George for it.
George’s girlfriend, Susan, leaves him and hooks up with Arthur. Bryan and George make up, just before George’s store is vandalized by the bad boy Josh, who resents Bryan’s attempts to win over Lisa.
In the end, Lisa leaves Josh (who mistreated her) and returns to Bryan.
In the final moments of the story, George is seen typing away the first few pages of his novel, just before Nancy seductively invites him to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to her, at her apartment.