Stay tuned for Stephanie's reports of Seattle book events! Today, she shares a book review of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber:
"Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is not a 'girl' book—it’s definitely aimed a male audience, with the requisite high-adrenaline nonstop action and suave, funny protagonist. I’m reviewing it because I’m always interested in breaking down the barriers between 'girl' and 'guy' books. Sometimes that means finding titles that appeal to both sexes, and sometimes it means finding books that give us a glimpse into the collective psyche of the other side. This book does both—sort of.
"Sixteen-year-old Perry is an aspiring musician and a classic East Coast kid: urbane, witty, and intelligent. During his senior year of high school, his family hosts a Lithuanian exchange student, Gobija Zaksauskas. Contrary to Perry’s hopes, she’s far from a sultry Euro-model with a fetching pout; she’s nondescript, frumpy, and forgettable. When she asks that Perry take her to prom on the night of his band’s first-ever NYC gig, he refuses. But his father lays down the law, and Perry finds himself at his school with a bespectacled girl dressed in traditional peasant garb (think floor-length hand-stitched burlap) on the night when he should be shredding in NYC.
"Oh, the surprises that those bulky-sweater-wearing girls can harbor. What follows is a tear-through-NYC adrenaline ride in which Gobi knocks off several of her targets, fights others, gets blood all over everything, and dances very sexily with Perry, who has been aiding, abetting, and resisting her by turns. I won’t spoil the ending for you, if you haven’t already guessed it.
"Joe Schreiber is a smart, funny guy and I found myself lingering over some of his hilarious, well-crafted, strangely poetic sentences. On a sentence level, the book is masterfully done. On a plot level… well, let’s say Schreiber knows how to dish up what guys like. But I think he’s selling them—and us—short.
"I was a lot more interested in Gobi when she showed up to prom in her peasant garb, which takes major cajones of a different kind than those required to kill people. I wanted to know that girl. Sadly, I lost her as she shrank into a one-dimensional stereotype. I don’t think any author or filmmaker is throwing women a bone by making female characters bad-ass a la Charlie’s Angels. Even toting guns and doing roundhouse kicks, they’re still just sexy things for men to look at. Real women rarely beat up and kill men while dressed like porn stars.
"I did appreciate that Schreiber made his protagonist kind and courteous; he didn’t make fun of Gobi when she was 'ugly,' and he defended her from others doing so. That’s worth something. But the device of librarian-takes-off-glasses-and-shapeless-dress is such a tired male fantasy that it undoes some of the good accomplished by a decent male protagonist.
"I’ll end my rant before it gets tiresome, if it isn’t already so. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a fast, fun ride and worth reading because of the excellent humor and strong word-smithing. But I’m holding out hope that Schreiber will turn his considerable talents to creating real female characters with depth, emotion, and intelligence. I would push the envelope a little further and request that they not always be 'hot,' but I think that would probably be going too far."