I Love You Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle, Ecco, New York, 2007, ISBN: 9780061236174
I Love You Beth Cooper is both the title of the novel and the words Denis Cooverman blurts out at his high school commencement speech. He has been infatuated with Beth during his four years at high school. The problem is, she barely knows he exists. When he tells her he loves her in front of everyone in his graduating class, it confuses her and enrages her boyfriend, Kevin AKA “the meat”, on furlough from the United States Army.
Denis’s words attract the attention of Beth and her friends, Cammy and Treece. Before he knows it, he’s inviting them to a soiree at his house with his friend Rich. When they actually show up, he does his best to impress them and doesn’t. When Kevin shows up with some of his buddies, Denis, Rich and the girls escape to another graduation party. Denis is out of his league, but the girls take pity on him and Rich and escort them through a side of Buffalo Grove High School social life that he has never experienced.
Unfortunately, Kevin and his friends are not far behind. Chances for Denis’s survival look bleak as they roam through the city on what could be the greatest, and last, night of his life.
Larry Doyle was a former writer for The Simpsons and his humor is on full display in I Love You Beth Cooper. The book’s plot comes straight out of most teen sex comedies, but Doyle’s writing is so funny that most readers won’t mind revisiting a familiar story. Take this exchange between Denis and his friend Rich:
“You shouldn’t be so nervous, dude.”
“I’m not nervous. I’m particular.”
Rich occasionally claimed to know things about the opposite sex. Such as: “They can smell fear.”
This terrified Denis. “No, they can’t.”
“I can smell it.”
Horrified, Denis sniffed his armpit.
“Oh, no,” he cried. “Fear.”
The pacing of the book is fast as events increasingly spin out of control. This makes for a quick and frequently hilarious read. There is purposeful exaggeration of the secondary characters for comedic effect. Kevin is crazily sadistic and Cammy and Treece are woefully dumb, but they make the story entertaining and complicate matters for the two protagonists: Denis and Beth. The main characters are sympathetic and feel very real. One of the nicest things Doyle does in the book is deepen our understanding of Beth’s character so that she becomes more than just a stereotypical popular girl on campus. In the end, we see her as a flawed human with as many fears and insecurities as the compulsively neurotic Denis.
Who would have thought an expression of love would lead to such disastrous results. Perhaps Denis shouldn’t have picked his graduation speech to tell the girl he barely knows that he loves her. Now everyone, including Beth, the object of his affection and her homicidal boyfriend, is out to make Denis’s graduation night a night he may not live to remember.
Information about the author
From Larry Doyle’s blog, we learn that “Doyle was a writer and producer of “The Simpsons” for four years; he also wrote the films “Duplex,” “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” and “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” His first novel, “I Love You, Beth Cooper” won the 2008 Thurber Award for Humor Writing. His second novel, “Go, Mutants!” came out in 2010. “Deliriously Happy,” a collection of humor pieces from the New Yorker and elsewhere, has just been published.
Young Adult Fiction
Is Beth Cooper worthy of Denis’s affection?
How do the experiences in I Love You Beth Cooper match your experiences in high school?
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up
Scenes of teenage drinking, drug use, and sex. Most of these scenes are intentionally exaggerated for humor and won’t appear realistic to teens. The book has received many great reviews from authors and prestigious publications.
Why did I include this title?
I think we need more funny books in our collection. So much of teen fiction these days is bleak, depressing dystopian versions of our lives. I loved the outrageous humor of the book. Plus, I’m a huge Simpson’s fan.