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I Love You, Beth Cooper
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
For kids who love geeks and high school
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