“What was that for?” I managed.
“I am beginning to like you, Perry.”
I shivered out a breath. “You’ve got a kooky way of showing it.”
“Have you ever felt more alive?”
“Once or twice, yes.”
Who can forget the agonizing struggle of composing admission letter after admission letter, wracking your brain for witty, original anecdotes to separate you from the masses? The endless stacks of college brochures, glossy photos of happy students and welcoming professors beckoning you to join them in undergraduate bliss? There is nothing quite like the exhilirating, terrifying thrill of beginning your college experience…unless you spend an exhilirating, terrifying night with a foreign exchange student that may very well claim your life before you ever step foot inside a dorm room.
As someone who has studied abroad in college, I understand the anxiety and awkwardness that arises when living in a foreign country, meeting hordes of new people, and trying to seamlessly adapt to a new culture. However, unlike Gobi, the Lithuanian exchange student who spends her senior year of high school in the US, I didn’t live with a host family, I wasn’t (I like to think) embarrassingly, painfully awkward around everyone I came into contact with, and most of all, I didn’t go to England for any other reason than to make new friends, explore a brand new place, and, oh yeah, study.
Perry, high school senior, lead singer in a band, straight-A, straight-laced student is on a clearly constructed, annoyingly narrow path to success: interning at his father’s company, maintaining his grade point average, all the key ingredients for pleasing the picky palates of the most selective college admissions officers in the nation. The strange Lithuanian girl his parents insisted on taking in? A minor aggravation, but ultimately not a problem. That is, until he finds out he is expected to be her date to prom, so as to end her American high school experience on a high note–despite his long-standing plans to play a show in New York City with his band that same night. His pleas of protest are to no avail, and it seems that a night spent swilling bland red punch and dancing stiffly with silent, sullen Gobi is to be his fate for the evening. But when Gobi makes it clear that she too has other plans, Perry is quickly sucked in to the most pants-wettingly thrilling night of his short life.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Joe Schreiber, and I can confidently say that it won’t be my last. The story’s pacing is vibrant, rapid, perfectly suited to the action but without creating that hectic feel that leaves readers blinking and confused: “Wait, so where are we now and what’s happening?” As each chapter unfolds, we are not only inching closer to uncovering mysterious Gobi’s identity, but we are experiencing situations with Perry that are completely shifting his worldview at a critical time in his life. Hovering over the precipice that separates childhood from adulthood, that roiling, riotous in-between that comprises one’s late teens to early twenties–challenging, at best. But when implicated in plots that you’ve only seen in movies, not knowing whether the next breath would be your last, all while navigating the streets of Manhattan in your father’s precious Jaguar? Well, at the very least, if you make it out alive, it’ll make for one hell of an admissions essay.
Rating: 5/5–For the familiar glamorous-yet-gritty vibe particular to late-night romps in NYC, laugh-out-loud wit, and a shocking last-page twist that will have you trawling Google for news of a sequel.
Specifically Recommended For: Everyone who joined Nick and Norah in their search for Fluffy.*
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, Joe Schreiber, Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY, 2011.
*Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan