They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s true, a hell of a lot of filmmakers must be blushing after reading Joe Schreiber’s ‘Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick’. Once you get past the fact that a massive portion of Schreiber’s book is shamelessly borrowed or stolen from other, much better works of fiction, it’s a fast-paced, propulsive and gripping little young adult action book. But that’s still a hell of a lot to get past.
The book follows soon-to-be college student Perry, an aspiring musician who’s planning to skip his senior prom to play his band’s first major gig in New York City. Unfortunately for him, his controlling father pushes him into taking Gobi, the frumpy Lithuanian exchange student staying with them, to the prom. Even more unfortunate, under the sullen attitude and drab fashion sense, Gobi reveals herself to be a smoking hot contract killer. Held at gunpoint, Perry is forced to act as chauffeur as Gobi drags him on a blood-soaked, bullet-ridden tour of New York, with five people to kill by dawn – if the two of them can survive that long.
If the plot doesn’t sound familiar, you might not have seen Michael Mann’s Collateral. In the film, cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) is taken hostage by contract killer Vincent (Tom Cruise), who has five kills to pull off in the city over the course of one night. ‘Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick’ flagrantly steals almost the entire plot of Mann’s film, from the central concept, to major story beats. Perry, like Max, makes an ill-fated attempt to flag down help while the assassin leaves him in an alley cuffed to the steering wheel. He destroys Gobi’s kill list, only to be forced to pose as hitman to recover a back-up from Gobi’s intimidating contractor – a situation which is resolved in the exact same way as the movie, with almost identical dialogue. The book’s shoot-out finale even takes place in a deserted office building in the middle of the night.
That’s not all, though. Even the parts that aren’t yoinked from Collateral conjure up a hefty sense of deja-vu. Perry is essentially Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – taking his father’s prized car into the city without permission, he’s dragged against his will on a coming-of-age whirlwind trip of the city by a dynamic companion which ultimately inspires the passive kid to finally stand up to his controlling dad. The last act veers dangerously close to the plot of Taken, too, along with countless other ‘it all happened during one crazy night’ movies.
On the whole, the Young Adult genre is a naturally derivative one, with most new titles borrowing heavily from the last big success; throw a rock in a bookstore and it’ll rebound off at least three novels featuring the dystopian trappings of ‘The Hunger Games’ or the brooding, melodramatic, star-crossed supernatural romance of ‘Twilight’, themselves owing huge debts to decades of fiction before them. In many cases, writers work within those borrowed conventions and find some new ideas to offer, engaging characters to present, or a unique spin on a tired concept. The trouble is, once you remove all the pilfered elements from Schreiber’s book, there’s not really anything new to find. Both Perry and Gobi never evolve beyond hollow, paper thin characters, while the obligatory romance never rings remotely true.
But what it lacks in depth, it certainly makes up for in pace and action. It won’t take you much longer than the length of your average action movie to speed through all of ‘Au Revoir’, and it’s just as full of entertainingly violent havoc and destruction. Whether it’s brutal fist-fights, car chases or shoot-outs, there’s never a dull chapter as Schreiber keeps things speeding along with an explosive, break-neck pace, Perry flitting from one perilous predicament to the next. Schreiber’s chapter openings are a fun touch, too, each one beginning with a college application essay question which mirrors the events of that chapter.
Ultimately, ‘Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick’ is the Young Adult lit equivalent of a fun, but forgettable late action movie. A less-than-original blend of Collateral, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Taken, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and more, Schreiber’s book is so derivative it’s practically begging for a lawsuit. But while it’s nothing remotely new, it’s never less than entertaining, with a rollercoaster pace and enough action to distract you from the fact that you’ve seen it all before.
‘Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick’ by Joe Schreiber is released in paperback format on 5th March 2012 from Egmont Books’ Electric Monkey imprint.
Click here to order the book from Amazon.co.uk