Dear Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (Houghton Mifflin 2011), you had me at the title. I discovered this book on an SLJ newsletter list of YA spy novels. It’s like they compiled this list just for me because I immediately wanted to read every single one. This one, however, shot to the top of the list with the “Ferris Bueller meets La Femme Nikita” jacket copy description. Sold!
Perry is a completely average high school senior dealing with college applications and a father who’s a controlling dick. When Perry’s parents force him to take their plain, shy Lithuanian exchange student, Gobija Zaksauskas, to the prom, he’s just worried about making it to his band’s first big gig that same night, but ends up getting a LOT more than he bargained for. It turns out Gobi is on a mission to kill five people in New York City on the one night they’ll all be in the city together, and forces Perry at gunpoint to drive her to her targets. Oh, and also she’s secretly hot. Over the course of the night there are car chases, shoot-outs, escape attempts, torture sessions, and one bear fight that completely change Perry’s life. Or at least give him the courage to stand up to his dad.
There’s nothing really new here, except for maybe the assassin angle. Outside of the dystopian genre, YA generally frowns on murder, even if the reason is (spoiler!) righteous. Although between this and the nuns, perhaps assassins are finally having their YA moment. Anyway, many of the classic teen book/movie elements are present: the nice guy who gets in over his head, the one crazy night/member of the opposite sex that changes your life. the nerd who turns out to be super hot, the controlling parents, etc., etc. But when the familiar elements are this fun, I totally don’t care. I mean there are explosions, and making out, and A FREAKING BEAR FIGHT. What more do you want? And the writing has enough charm and wit to overcome the predictability of the plot.
The supporting characters are paper thin, somewhat understandably so since a vast majority of the action centers around Perry and Gobi, but the two main characters are fleshed out pretty well. Perry feels like a real teenager, especially because it’s not like he turns into James Bond action guy by the end. He has few moments of triumph, but mostly he’s scared and sarcastic and trying to do what he can to get through the night and protect his family. Gobi is more enigmatic, but between her bouts of badassery, there are hints of vulnerability.
When I finished the book (which took about two hours because it’s a lightening fast read) I noted that it would probably make a better movie than a book since the story is so action heavy. When I googled the author, I wan’t shocked to discover that there had been a bidding war for the movie rights mere days after the book contract had been signed, so maybe we’ll be seeing Perry and Gobi on the big screen soon. I also wasn’t shocked to discover that a sequel called Perry’s Killer Playlist (Houghton Mifflin 2012) was released this month. It’s more of the same, but this time in Europe! Still, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. I actually think that these books are the literary equivalent of cookies. They’re perhaps not the best or most healthy things that you could be consuming, but they’re pretty damn satisfying in the moment.