I love teen movies*. I really do. I remember Molly Ringwald as being an early crush when I was a little boy and I thought it was the coolest thing ever that a guy named Cameron got to hang out with Ferris Bueller and drive with him in a neat fast car.
I love the genre, but I hate when it’s done badly**.
Larry Doyle’s debut novel is a wild ride of a novel, a story of five teens on their graduation night. After concluding that he has nothing to lose, king of the nerds and valedictorian Denis Cooverman declares that he loves head cheerleader Beth Cooper. It’s a great beginning; Doyle gets the atmosphere of a graduation day just right, the smell of a packed area, the sweat of nervousness and being over-heated(Mine was outside in the football field in 90 degree heat), and the murmur of kids that just want to get out of there and start the next chapter in their lives. After his speech is cut short abruptly, Denis runs into Beth and after an encounter with her beefy marine boyfriend, he nervously invites her to his graduation party that night.
Of course, being king of the nerds, only he and his best friend, Rich (Who he outed as gay in the speech) are there and it’s the surprise of a lifetime when Beth and her two friends, Cammi and Treece show up on their way to another party hosted by one of The Beautiful People from their High School days. Things are going slowly and Beth and her friends are about to leave when Beth’s coked-up boyfriend arrives after GPSing Beth to Denis’s house. So Dennis, Rich, and the girls go on the run from the spurned marine and his two equally drugged up buddies.
It’s certainly a funny journey, full of drugs, drinking, and weird experiences, but the problem lies in the fact that it just feels too plotted. Events happen because it felt like Doyle thought they would be funny, and they are, but they felt like Doyle was checking off a list of teenage experiences. Drugs? Check! Sex? Check! A Wild party with the above and more? CHECK!
It’s a good thing it’s so funny, or I would have given up half-way through. Doyle wrote some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons and he knows how to make a scene as funny as it possibly could be, like buying beer after being caught with a hilariously fake I.D, I just wish they didn’t seem so blatantly planned rather than organic.
The other problem is that Denis Cooverman is an insanely un-sympathetic character and his friend Rich is even more annoying. Denis is a prodigy-smart guy with virtually no social skills, but it feels like Denis never even tried to have more friends or be more out-going. Rich is That Guy who constantly spouts movie quotes. We all hate That Guy. I couldn’t get behind this nerd like I could Ferris’ pal Cameron or Jim from American Pie.
The satire on teen life is often dead-on, if a bit over the top. The hottest show on T.V. is on The CW and called BITCHES and all the characters drink soda’s with hilariously long names filled with sugar. The kids constantly listen to inane pop music and overly violent rap, but spurn classic music because their parents listened to it.
I liked Beth Cooper though. She was a funny out-going girl who took every opportunity to have a good time. She wasn’t a bitch, nor was she a freak like you’d find on Dawson’s Creek. Every chapter has a quote from a movie teenager and it constantly reminded me of the teen movies that are so much better.
I could see why Denis liked Beth Cooper so much and because I Love You, Beth Cooper gets so much right and is often hilarious, I wish I had loved the book.
7 out of 10
* my top 5 favorites
5) American Pie
4) Ten Things I hate About You
3) Can’t Hardly Wait
2) The Breakfast Club
1) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
**No, She’s All That and Pretty in Pink aren’t even good as guilty pleasures.