I Love You, Beth Cooper
By Stephanie Dunnewind,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Witty, raunchy novel spiked with geeky humor.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Denis' father tells him that sometimes you just have to say, "What the f--k" and have some fun. Then he tells him there are condoms in his bedside table. Denis calls an overweight girl he dated his "secret shame" and gets depressed that she is his "social and physical equal." In "a young man's prayer," Denis says he believes "Beth Cooper is the One and Only Savior of my Wretched Adolescence and it is through Her that I may achieve Salvation." Denis says buying beer, getting chased and beat up, and eluding authorities is "a lot of fun," noting that "all my memories from high school are from tonight."
Positive Role Models
On the positive side, Denis is a valedictorian who usually makes good decisions. He saves Kevin from drowning (mostly so he can still get into college). However, he is portrayed as a loser. Kevin is physically and emotionally abusive to Beth, who claims to love him anyway. Beth drives dangerously and has limited future plans. She fools around with Denis because it's graduation night and "not to be with someone would just be too sad." Beth and her friends go to Denis' house because they think it will be funny. The graduates use Beth's key to get into the high school after hours.
Violence & Scariness
Denis' attempts to get away from Beth's angry boyfriend make up most of the book's plot, with a tone that's meant to be over-the-top funny. Kevin and his two buddies, all in the military, inflict increasing amounts of physical violence on Denis and Rich, including squeezing and slamming their heads, punching them in the face and stomach, and throwing a microwave oven at them. Kevin repeatedly asks, "Are you prepared to die?" Beth says, "He thinks just because he's killed some guys, he can kill anybody he wants." Kevin threatens to castrate, torture, and drown Denis. Beth steals Kevin's Hummer and drives it through a house window. A coach from the high school attending a party sets up a fight between Kevin and Denis, even after Denis asks for adult help. Sean chokes Rich so much he passes out. Rich and Denis defend themselves at one point by snapping Kevin and his buddies with wet towels; Rich also threatens them with a gun. Kevin pushes his fingers into Beth's face and flicks her hard on the nipple. One of his buddies gets "all date-rapey" with Treece, even though she says she planned to give him a blow job at the end.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rich (at 11) has the idea to reenact a Star Wars light-saber battle "using their boners." Denis mentions always being behind Beth, leading to recurring sodomy jokes. Denis has a magazine with topless women. Denis' father "dry-humps" his mother in the back of their car; Denis sees his parents get out of the car without their pants on. Denis' face lands in Beth's lap, where it "smelled musky, a little like butt, less pungent, more floral. . . he was sniffing Beth Cooper's vagina." Beth touches a sales clerk's penis in exchange for selling them beer; Denis thinks of multiple words for penis. A girl gives a boy a "blumpkin" and tells another to "go Google it" when he looks confused. (According to Urban Dictionary, it means getting oral sex "while taking a dump.") The girls get naked in a locker room shower and invite the boys to join them. Treece and Cammy have a threesome with Rich (using a condom) that turns into a twosome. Treece's "automated mouth" moves to Rich's fly. Denis sees Beth's naked butt. Denis and Beth make out and he fondles her breasts. The girls model licking the creme from a cupcake.
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Extensive use of variations on "f--k" and "s--t," including one example where Denis is amazed that half of Beth's sentence consists of "f--k." Other words include "dick," "c--k," "c--t," "p--sies," "asshole," "homo," "pissed," and "beeyatch." Other students call Rich and Denis "Dick Muncher and The Penis." An African-American student who grew up in the suburbs tries to be a gangsta; the book calls him a "black whigger." He tells the girls to "come on over to the Dark Meat Side."
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Products & Purchases
Numerous products are mentioned by brand name, but often in a tongue-in-cheek way, such as Denis drinking a "Diet Vanilla Cherry Lime-Kiwi Coke." Denis' iPod graduation playlist, Suzy Q cakes, and his parents' Prius are important to the story.The author describes the town's main drag of strip malls, mentioning several specific chains, including AMC Loews, Starbucks, Curves, Baskin-Robbins, Payless Shoes,and Blockbuster.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Denis' parents buy a bottle of champagne for him to serve at a party but warn him to give only one glass per guest and "nobody who drinks, drives." Kevin is "coked up" and had also been drinking vodka, bourbon, and rum; he later takes illegal prescription drugs. The main characters (underage) buy and drink beer; Beth gets drunk. They also drink vodka. A guy from the high school sells prescription drugs such as Adderall. Teens drink excessively at a party. Parents leave a 23-year-old older brother in charge; he takes heroin and participates in a threesome. Beth smokes cigarettes (Denis mentally calculates all the health dangers). Treece gets pot from her lawyer father's clients.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know this funny novel features nonstop underage drinking, violence, sex (including oral sex and threesomes), and cursing. The main character is a geeky valedictorian who decides to carpe diem by drinking, making out, and getting naked in a shower with three girls. One dating relationship includes abuse.
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What's the Story?
Denis Cooverman, captain of the debate team and Star Wars light saber owner, declares his love for popular cheerleader Beth Cooper during his valedictorian speech in front of the entire graduating class. Unlike his fantasies, however, this does not lead to their marriage. Instead, he spends the night running from Beth's massive, violent boyfriend, who wants to kill him. Painfully. Along the way, with both their friends in tow, Denis discovers Beth is a tad more real -- and exciting -- than the angel he imagined.
Is It Any Good?
A homage to teen movies, I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER manages to be both retro and contemporary, of-the-moment and timeless. It's also laugh-out-loud funny, with absurd bits that catch the reader by surprise. (The impossibility of Denis' love "hung over his huge head like a sword of Damocles -- or to the non-honors graduates, like a sick fart.") Denis is socially clueless -- even his relationship with his maybe-gay best friend is awkward -- but readers will sympathize as they wince at his dweebishnes (he offers the boiling point of water when Beth makes small talk about the heat). Beth, far from an empty-headed cheerleader, works 35 hours a week and recognizes that high school may be as good as her life gets.
The final fourth of the book devolves into an increasingly unlikely (and less funny) mash of sex, alcohol, and violence, but by that point readers will just want to find out how Denis' wild night works out.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the way Kevin treats Beth. Do teens think this is abusive behavior? What could they do if they felt intimidated by a boy or girlfriend?
Families can also talk about the quotes from teen movies (The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Napoleon Dynamite) that lead off every chapter. Did teens recognize any of the characters or films? Why do they think the author chose to include these quotes so prominently?
Can teens think of some of their own favorite movie soundbites? Do teens find Rich's movie-quoting skill funny or annoying?
How does Denis' iPod playlist play a role in the book? What did teens think about some of the lyrics?
You can also talk about Beth, Treece, and Cammy's casual attitude toward sex, including oral sex.
- Author: Larry Doyle
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Book type: Fiction
- Publication date: June 9, 2009
- Number of pages: 304
- Last updated: June 30, 2015
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