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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Au Revoir’ says hello to typical young adult writing

Published: November 18, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

“Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” by Joe Schreiber is quite the stereotypical young adult novel. All the right moves are made to attract readers to the book: hot girl, hot guy, prom, murder, suspense. Despite all these best efforts to target the proper teenage audience, the novel falls a bit flat, mainly because it seems forced.

A brief plot summary: “Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” concentrates on main character Perry, a senior in high school. Perry makes a pretty uninteresting hero. Stressed out by his college applications and the constant pressure placed on him by his father, Perry grudgingly conforms to his father’s ideals. When not worrying about college applications or SAT scores, the only thing Perry does for himself, it seems, is play in his band.

To shake things up, Perry’s family has been hosting a Lithuanian exchange student named Gobi, an extremely homely and unsociable girl. This is especially embarrassing for him because his mother coerces Perry into bringing Gobi to prom, as it is her last week in America and Gobi essentially asks Perry’s mother for this to happen. On prom night, however, Perry learns Gobi is an undercover assassin trying to avenge her sister’s death. Chaos ensues when Perry chauffeurs Gobi around to commit the five murders she hopes to accomplish in one night. It is also important to note that, by this time, Gobi has somehow transformed into a very attractive female, and she and Perry enjoy some kissing in the middle of the street between murders.

What confused me most about “Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” was the exact age or gender demographic the author was going for. Personally, if I were a 17-year-old male, I would not want to read about Perry. Perry spends his pre-Gobi life stressing about college applications and his virginity. When thrust into this alternate universe of hired assassins, Perry is still stressing out, whether he’s constantly having convulsions about seeing blood or potentially damaging his father’s Jaguar. If I were a male reader, I would want to read about a guy who actually stood up for himself once in a while—a person with a backbone. I would not want to read about a character that stresses out even more than I did during my senior year of high school. Reading is meant to be a venue for escape, and not for reading about characters that are incapable of standing up for themselves. Though Perry does eventually stand up to his father at the very end of the novel, that does not excuse the fact that he allows his father to get shot or that he allows Gobi to come up with all their escape plans.

In one memorable scene, the chapter sets Perry up to describe a group endeavor in which he participates. This entire chapter consists of Gobi somehow jerking her knee upward into her torturer’s face and getting the keys to free both herself and Perry. What is Perry’s contribution? He sits silently in his chair until he is freed, then mutely follows Gobi up the stairs.

From the viewpoint of a female reader, I was slightly disgusted with how Gobi was only allowed to be badass once she becomes attractive, and how she is constantly used as a figure of desire. I also believe that the novel is too simple for any 17- or 18-year-old reader, yet deals with concepts that are unfit for a younger age, such as virginity. So what age range or gender would read this novel?

Each chapter in the novel begins with a college essay prompt. The prompt usually relates to something that happens in the chapter, something Perry could possibly write about. I actually liked this technique; I felt that it grounded the novel in reality when wild actions were occurring in the text. Brandeis is included as one of the colleges whose prompts were mentioned. The prompt reads, “In one page or less, describe an impossible scenario, real or hypothetical, and how you would respond to it.”

Perry, as noted, reacts to most scenarios with sniveling hysterics, a trait I doubt would actually get you into Brandeis.

Despite all this and possibly due to its many action scenes, “Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” sold its screen rights last year to Paramount Pictures in a rather spirited auction. This is a big break for Joe Schreiber. Although Schreiber is a New York Times best-selling author, this is his first novel outside the horror genre. He also mainly seems to focus on “Star Wars”-based novels, which makes “Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” slightly more impressive because it is not based on any previous work. “Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” is not an entire bust, but should have focused more on character development.