No question, it’s a funny book. It covers one day in the life of Denis Cooverman, an uber-dorky high school valedictorian who confesses, in his graduation day speech, that he’s in love with a pretty, popular cheerleader. She unexpectedly shows up his house that night with two of her friends, and the four of them, plus his closeted best friend, spend the rest of their graduation night on the run from her angry, Iraq war veteran ex-boyfriend.
Doyle, who wrote for the Simpsons and has also written a number of screenplays, is a very talented writer. I Love You, Beth Cooper is chock-full of to-the-minute pop culture references and statements about modern society (the book takes place in May 2007). I had to laugh, for example, at the dads at the graduation ceremony checking their Treos, the environmentally friendly constructional materials at the local playground, and Denis’ liberal parents driving a Prius. Doyle is very funny, and I loved how he subtlely dropped references and jokes without fanfare or attention. Not unlike a Simpsons episode, you have to pay attention if you’re going to get the jokes. Doyle trusts the reader to be smart enough to understand his references and to get what they are trying to convey without banging you over the head with them.
Now, the downside. The joke (dork goes on the run from scary military guy, gets caught, gets pummeled, then escapes again, all the while pining for pretty girl who gives him mixed messages) gets old. The quintet — Denis, Beth, her two best friends, and his — goes through a lot that night, and the story gets a little tedious and blurry by the end. That said, Denis’ relationship with Beth does progress (though I won’t reveal to what level), and it’s worth reading to the end just to experience more of Doyle’s humor.
I also personally enjoyed that each chapter has a pithy quote at the beginning from some character in a movie set in high school. Some I recognized off the bat (e.g. Claire Standish, Samantha Baker, Lloyd Dobler, Jeff Spicoli) and some I had to Google. But the high school genre is of course that – a genre – and Doyle has added a shining star to the collection. I do recommend it, especially if you like Simpsons humor and can appreciate a high school novel a few decades later. (Incidentally, Doyle, who emailed me after the last post, is around my age and has twins too. Cool.)
This is a very entertaining book. Just be prepared to skim a bit toward the end.