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by Larry Doyle

Pub Date: May 8th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-06-123617-4
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

A former scribe for Beavis and Butt-Head and The Simpsons humorously addresses the agony and ecstasy of adolescence.

It’s high-school hell, where jocks and geeks alike guzzle “diet vanilla cherry lime kiwi coke,” scan car radios for tunes by “Jakob Dylan’s dad” and cheer at the senior variety show when “the Sullen Girl sang, wringing fresh bitterness from the already alkaline lyrics.” Doyle has the scene down cold. Coldest (and best) is his wince-inducing master creation, ultra-nerd Denis Cooverman. Best pals with maybe-gay vintage-movie-addled Rich Munsch (at Buffalo Grove High, they’re called “Penis and Dick Munch”), Denis is the Star Wars–loving debate-team captain valedictorian who delivers a revolutionary graduation-night speech: Shockingly and suicidally, he outs classmates for their eating disorders, bullying, zero self-esteem and sexual abuse at the hands of relatives. Knees trembling, he adds his own confession: “I love you, Beth Cooper!”—pretty, pouty Lolita, cheerleader in excelsis. Then red with shame and bravado, he invites her to a party at his house, where his mom, indulging him, this time opts not for such organic treats as “croque-tofu, like grilled cheese only terrible” but a groaning board of “Triple Minty M&M’s” and “Quatro Formaggy Cheetos.” Miracle of miracles, Beth actually shows up, accompanied by two Lolitettes. Thus begins the most memorable night of Cooverman’s life, a nadir/zenith during which he flees from Beth’s Army Man boyfriend, finagles illegal booze, rides through the night like a mad romantic from a Meatloaf video and ends up making out.

The plot, a pell-mell contrivance, isn’t so much the point as is the hormones and humiliation of life in Teenage Wasteland.