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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 15 - "I Love You, Beth Cooper" by Larry Doyle

Quick as a northern bullet, I’m back with another review. My reading speed seems to accelerate in fits and starts, so this should be one of the starts. (New Moon will probably be a hell of a fit.)

As always, I would also like to thank Brian Prisco for not only being able to make sense of my writing but actually sometimes seeing them fit for mass consumption. (It really helps if the authorities think you’re of sound mind.) If fame and adventure through the printed word suit your fancy, here's where you should be going for the ground rules: http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm; and here's where you go to sign up.: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/

Almost any child of the 80’s knows at least one John Hughes movie by heart. Almost any child of the 90’s knows at least one The Simpsons episode by heart. Larry Doyle (who, coincidentally enough worked as a writer for The Simpsons) manages to crossbreed elements of these two genres into one of the wildest nights of teen comedy history.

Valedictorian Denis Cooverman (the captain of the debate team) decides to take a stand and proclaim his love for Beth Cooper (the captain of the cheerleading squad). The only reason he does this is because at the heart of his speech there is a theme that all graduates can take to heart…you are more than likely leaving these halls with some form of regret. Graduation is your last chance to say or do things you’ve been meaning to do for a while, and the best part is…there won’t be any repercussions whatsoever. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to happen, and as life (and really good fiction) would have it…not everything is what it’s supposed to be. In one night, Denis will experience enough revelations, confrontations, and repercussions to last him up until his 10 year reunion. He will also, for one night in his until now pathetic life, get to live the life of a teenager.

This was an easy, easy read; mostly because it’s a lot of fun and not even halfway through the chapter it gains some serious comedic traction. Everything that happens to poor Denis Cooverman (as depicted in illustrations at the head of each chapter) is something straight out of the teen comedy playbook. Underage drinking? Check. Sexual tension? Check. Pop culture references? Check. Quirky sidekick? Check. Part of what works so well about this book is that it has all of the prerequisite elements, but it also has a genuine heart at its core. The characters have some baggage that Hughes’s characters didn’t. Beth knows high school is the peak of her existence, Denis learns that Beth Cooper isn’t perfect but still likes her anyway, and Rich just might be gay. This book is quickly paced and funny enough to keep the pages turning, and Doyle manages to throw together a bully comedy and a sex comedy without sacrificing either’s integrity.

Perhaps the most interesting part about this edition though is that it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of an author revising their own work after its publication, much less after its film adaptation. As the foreword points out, you rarely ever hear about an author revisiting their work after its initial publication. Not only did Larry Doyle write a bestselling, critically acclaimed (and Thurber Award winning) novel…he decided to make some additions to it that were inspired by his own adaptation of the movie. On top of that, there are two pieces by the author on his writing process as well as a collection of true life high school disaster stories. (One of which is, fittingly enough, written by a real life Beth Cooper.) All these elements make this a mass market reissue that actually one ups the original hardcover printing. (Which is so rare, I can’t think of any other instances at this moment.)

Overall, this is to the current generation of teenagers what the John Hughes comedies of the 80’s were to teens of the era: its breeding ground for future nostalgia. Even Doyle himself realizes that all this story has done is, “change the props”. Denis Cooverman’s yearnings have been felt by generations before and will be felt by generations after, which makes this an evergreen read. The class of ’07 has the same issues, hopes, dreams, and fears as the class of ’87; the real life anecdotes help prove that. The big message of this book is that high school doesn’t really end. Sure, you leave the building, but you don’t leave the people, you don’t leave the drama, and you certainly don’t leave your dreams. If you loved “Pretty In Pink”, or perhaps “Bart Burns Down The House”, then you should have no hesitation in picking up “I Love You, Beth Cooper”.

Next Time: The Lie by Chad Kultgen

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