Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Perry Stormaire's Night Out: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

If you had one day left to live, how would you spend it and why? (University of Southern California essay prompt)

I could see over the edge now, looking down. "I'm not jumping!" I shouted.

"Then you will die."

I nodded to the gaping hole in the forty-seventh floor. "How is this not dying?"

Gobi gave me another nudge toward the edge and for a second I actually felt the vacuum of space itself sucking me outward.

Outside the building, a high-pitched turbine whine thundered up into view and that was when I saw the helicopter.

"Get ready!" Gobi shouted. The helicopter tilted toward us, lowering.

Gobi grabbed me and jumped.

Not since Ferris Beuhler took a senior skip day or Tom Cruise's Joel borrowed his dad's Porsche for a day of Risky Business has a high school senior had such a fantasy fugue as good kid Perry Stormaire, whose big night out as unwilling prom escort for his family's nerdy Lithuanian exchange student turns into the wildest chase script ever.

It's the worst prom date fix-up in history. Gobi, smudged glasses and all, appears, dressed for the date, in a heavy brown wool peasant costume, carrying a huge matching canvas purse. "Is traditional Lithuanian ceremonial costume," Gobi explains, as Perry cringes in his rented tux.

But Gobi persuades Perry that what she really wants is not a spin around the dance floor, but a whirl around New York City, and soon the terminally dorky Gobi morphs into the hottest ninja chick of them all, one on a mission to avenge her sister's death at the hands of five human traffickers, all of whom are in New York on that one night. From a nightmare date in a peasant costume to a stiletto-heeled, gun and knife-toting assassin babe, Gobi is an action figure come alive to shake up Perry's pedestrian sojourn on the waitlist at Columbia on the road to recapitulating his father's life.

Dodging bullets (and catching a few), Perry and Gobi careen through midnight Manhattan streets in his dad's Jaguar, outrunning thugs and escaping various slaughter scenes--even one with a rampant bear. Gobi's quick weapon-wielding secret agent moves finish off three of her hotlisted honor killings, but the last two come hard, and the two are captured, held in chains in a basement in Brooklyn, finally escaping only to end up in Perry's father's office, where, just ahead of the police SWAT team, Gobi finds her final target, the head of his father's law firm herself.

By the time Joe Schrieber's forthcoming Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) concludes with a blast, one which flattens the Stormaire house and implodes Perry's plans for an unruffled transition to adult life, the reader is cheering for Gobi and rejoicing in Perry's metamorphosis into a guy finally taking his fate into his own hands. Schreiber gleefully juxtaposes top-tier college application essay prompts as chapter heads with the kaleidoscope of experiences hurtling toward the reader and giving the initially predictably prosaic Perry a radically new world view, one in his old life is literally and figuratively blown away, and he sees that there are many possible lives ahead of him. It's quite a ride, one that is hard to put down, as fast-paced as a car chase down Broadway, a serio-comic joyride of a novel that will leave readers waiting to exhale.

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