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Book Nook: 'Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick'

What if your mom made you take the geeky foreign exchange student to prom instead of letting you play in your own rock show...and then the exchange student turned out to be an assassin who dragged you to five hit jobs in NYC instead of prom?

Title: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (with a sequel expected for publication in 2012)

Author: Joe Schreiber

Genre: Young adult, action, spy-thriller

The gist: With a title like "Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick" one might think this is a chick-lit sort of book, but one would be very wrong indeed. This book is exactly like if your mom made you take the geeky foreign exchange student to prom instead of allowing you to play in your own rock show...and then the exchange student turned out to be an assassin who dragged you along to take out five hits in New York City instead of actually going to prom.

Cover art: I actually received my advance copy before the cover art was finalized so I didn’t get to see the real cover until after I had finished reading the book. While I like the New York City background better than the blank purple with black text of the review copy, I can’t say that either one really conveys the assassin/spy awesomeness written within.

Summary:

It’s prom night, and up till now Perry Stormaire’s only worries were finishing his college applications and getting his band its first big gig in the Big Apple. But when his mother makes him take geeky, quiet Lithuanian exchange student Gobija Zaksauskas to the prom, Perry figures the night is going to be a disaster.

He has no idea how right he is.

When Gobi turns out to be a trained assassin on a special mission--five targets by daybreak--Perry’s roped into it whether he likes it or not. Now they’re off like a prom dress on a reckless, no-brakes blitz through nighttime Manhattan in his father’s red Jag, going eyeball-to-eyeball with Russian mobsters and teen angst, high-velocity bullets and high school bullies, all thanks to the most beautiful girl that ever almost got him killed.

Crammed with car chases, heists, hits, henchmen, eyeliner, and even a bear fight, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a pedal-to-the-floor, rapid-fire thrill ride that will hold you captive to the last page. And remember, it’s not over until “au revoir.”

Watch the official trailer here.

The best part: Foreign exchange student secret assassin, high-speed car chases through NYC, mobsters, murder, explosions, blackmail and nonstop illegal action on prom night--what’s not to love?

The worst part: The book works for a shoot-‘em-up, hot assassin, boy-venture, wish-fulfillment type of story, however I have this nagging suspicion that it wouldn’t be getting so much hype if the gender roles were reversed. The main male character is very passive and goes along with the undercover assassin in a manner that makes one suspect that he is suffering from Stockholm syndrome. While it’s nice to see a male character all doe-eyed and willing to go along with a chick that is clearly insane, dangerous and deadly, instead of the reverse, I can’t help but wonder if the roles were reversed how many readers would be pointing and screaming “Mary-Sue!”

Characters: The characters are amusing but don’t go through great emotional arcs that lead them to grow into changed people or anything. Perry, the male lead, develops a bit over the course of the story, but for the most part this is about action and adventure and hot chick assassins rather than deep emotions. Strangely, the female lead, the assassin Gobi, seems better developed as a character overall, even while lacking the emotional arc. Her motivations are revealed piece by piece over the course of the story but Perry’s aren’t really examined.

Plot: The plot is pretty straightforward--she’s a highly trained assassin posing as a foreign exchange student and has a mission to kill five powerful people in NYC on prom night. He’s a kind of wimpy high school student who she drags along for no apparent reason. If you like the sort of movie that stars Angelina Jolie blowing things up or James Bond sorts being all James Bond-y then you’ll probably enjoy this book too. It’s like assassin-spy-explosion brain candy.

Setting: Perry goes to a quiet suburban school in Connecticut, but most of the story takes place in New York City. It isn’t particularly vital that the city be New York, however readers that hold NYC in a special place in their hearts will appreciate the little details, like what block they’re on when something explodes or which avenue they just came crashing onto during a high-speed chase.

Writing style: The book is structured in the form of a college application essay, which is both humorous and engaging considering the type of story it is. The chapters are all titled with the sort of typical essay questions schools ask of potential students, but are answered in the narrative of Perry’s experience being the hostage of an assassin. The writing is straightforward and centered on the action, cutting out anything that isn’t focused on moving the adventure forward and blowing things up or shooting people. This is exactly the sort of book that I would recommend for teen boys who are reluctant readers, because it’s a quick read with many elements that they would generally seek out in movie theaters. It is good, solid fun, and light reading with guns, bombs and car chases.

In which I babble: Paramount Pictures acquired the screen rights to take this story to the big screen and that was undoubtedly a very good call. This will translate to screen well and most likely draw in the sort of audiences that enjoy action and explosion films. While Angelina Jolie herself is too old to pull off high school student assassin, she is exactly the sort of actress I’m sure Paramount will be desperate to cast for this femme-fatale character. While reading I was picturing a sort of cross between Jordana Brewster and Chloë Moretz for Gobi and Zac Efron as Perry.

Quotes:

“Whittaker and Monroe were as wealthy as they were psychotic, and looking at them, you got the feeling that the prom was nothing more than a sadistic giggle between big over-oxygenated whoops of special rich person air that they had flown in exclusively from Switzerland.”

“I felt a hand grab my sleeve and jerk me from the stage. I dropped my bass and swung my arms out to catch myself, experiencing air’s notorious inadequacy when it comes to behaving as a solid, and then my chin slammed into the floor and my face went numb up all the way back to my jawbone.”

You might also like: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden, or if you’re looking for a longer and more complex read, then check out Green by Jay Lake.

Additional books by author: Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark, Star Wars: Death Troopers, No Doors, No Windows and Star Wars: Red Harvest

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Release date: October 2011

Purchase the book here.

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