“Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” by Joe Schreiber

I picked this up from the library where I work because I had some time to kill, it was nice and short, I hadn’t read anything in a couple of days… oh, and it said female assassin on the blurb, and I like to suss out the competition.

(Assassins are kind of a thing with me.)

crazy european chickIt was indeed a short book. I finished it in about an hour which is approximately half my usual amount of time (an average length YA novel will take me around two hours unless I get distracted or don’t like it), and enjoyed it. But I’m not entirely sure how much I can say in a review that won’t include major spoilers. That’s the problem with short books; it’s hard not to give away the ending when there isn’t so much in the middle.

You know the beginning of Paper Towns where Margo makes Q be her getaway driver while she lobs dead catfish at people? (I may be lacking some of the detail but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.) Well, think of that. Except they’re in a Jaguar (I think it was a Jaguar), not a minivan, and it’s murder, not catfish.

Also, ‘Margo’ in this case is Gobi, a Lithuanian ‘exchange student’ who isn’t entirely what she seems, and ‘Q’ is a high-schooler whose Dad is putting pressure on him to be a lawyer but whose gift and passion is really in his band. Who happen to have a gig the same night as prom which, incidentally, is also when Gobi decides she needs him as a getaway driver.

For murder. In case you missed that part.

Now that I think about it, it doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Paper Towns beyond the part where a girl does something totally unexpected as a form of revenge and takes an ordinary boy along for the ride, thus dragging him into trouble he would never have got into on his own. This time it’s not revenge for cheating or a break-up, though, it’s about human trafficking and murder. The stakes are … just a little bit higher.

I’m a sucker for girls with weapons, and Gobi had plenty of them, which was exciting. Actually, the characters generally were pretty cool, but it’s such a short book that I didn’t feel the background characters got developed as much as they could have done. We meet Perry’s dad (Perry is the boy, I probably should have mentioned that) who is somewhat overbearing, and we meet the rest of his family as well, but…

I dunno, I just didn’t feel I got to know them. I want to know more about Gobi, too, and now that Perry has learned to stand up for himself (should that have had a spoiler alert? You could probably see it coming) against his dad, I’m interested to see where he goes next.

Goodreads informs me it’s a series, so maybe the next book will tell me that.

The book had a cool structure. Each chapter’s header is a college application question that relates to the theme of the book, reminding us that Perry is a high-school student waiting to hear whether he’s been accepted into — I think it’s Colombia? But I may be misremembering. Anyway. And the end of the book kind of links back to that theme, too. At first I thought it was a bit of a gimmick, but it ended up contributing to the story in a weird way, so it grew on me.

This contains some serious emotions, plenty of violence, a strong dose of tragic backstory, and a dollop of danger — but it also manages to have some funny parts, and I appreciate that.

On the whole, a fun, exciting read with some unusual characters. I’m giving it three stars rather than four not because it did anything particularly to lose that extra star, but it just didn’t do enough to gain it — possibly because it was so short that it went wildly from one extreme to the next without much development, and also the ending seemed a wee bit contrived.

Rating: ***

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