Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review: Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo

Korean-American Albert Kim blames his parents moving him twice in his formative years for his dismal social status. Instead of playing the fitting in game at Bern High, Albert spends his sophomore year intentionally being a loser. So when he has a summer “something” with the school’s reining sweetheart Mia, former half of a power couple, Albert thinks junior year is looking up. But then Mia’s jerk of an ex, Ryan, gets cancer and Al just can’t compete. Is their “something” doomed?

Albert tells us in the prologue that his love story ends badly, admits that he’s done some things wrong, and asks us to try to see the whole picture and try to understand who he is. It’s like an advance apology for the fact that he is about to go off on a lot of detailed (and often tedious) tangents during the following 370 pages. Albert is an unusual narrator – we don’t often get this much insight to the mind of a severe outcast – and he tries his best to put himself in the best possible light because “what is a story, really, but a narrator’s defense?” (p. 4)

So what does a girl like Mia see in a guy like Albert? No one can figure it out, not even Albert. In the microcosm of the summer hotel job, after one of the most painfully funny meeting scenes I think I’ve ever read, they are sweet together. But you know, both instinctually, and because you’re told on the first page, that their kind of “something” can’t last – Albert is just too much of a weirdo to ever successfully maneuver all the intricacies of the high school social scene (integral to the survival of any budding high school relationship). It’s funny – because of the title (a riff on the Smith’s song Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before I’d wager) – I kept thinking about the lyrics of the song whenever Albert (with increasing hysteria and dread) would ask Mia about their relationship status every couple of days:

Nothing's changed I still love you, oh, I still love you ...Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love

In another nod to the song, Ryan has his spleen removed. Good times.

Anyway, the highlight of the novel is the voice. Albert is just so delightfully dorky and immature but so observant and intelligent at the same time. His outsider insights on the ridiculousness of high school were spot-on. Many passages made me laugh out loud – especially the pep rally scene and the town’s overreaction to Ryan’s cancer.

But yeah, I’d say this is at least 100 pages overlong and often veers into outright parody (something like Tom Perrotta’s ELECTION). Still, it’s a nice slice of life love story from a perspective we don’t often see and that alone makes this worthy of a larger audience. Will this one beat ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK in the Nerds Heart YA tournament? Stay tuned!


Jodie said...

Looking forward to seeing which one comes out on top.

bermudaonion said...

Well, darn the premise held so much promise for me - sorry to see the book doesn't live up to it.

Lenore said...

I wouldn't say it doesn't live up to its promise. I just felt like it could have been a lot tighter. But then there are those who have more patience for rambling and tangents than I do!

Melanie said...

I love the cover of this one! It's cute. Sounds like an interesting storyline.

Lenore said...

It is a cute cover! The title and cover are really what attracted me in the first place. And the frogs have relevance to the plot, so that's cool too.

thekoolaidmom said...

I like this kind of off-beat, quirky story. And... he's Asian, so that's a draw for me.

The long-drawn out bit of it might make me wanna chew my arm off, though.

And I agree, it's got a really cute cover :-)

application essay help said...

A typical high school romance story but the difference is that there are too many issues surrounding the two protagonists.

Christina Farley said...

Great review. I was interested in it because it had a Korean American character.

writemeg said...

I love YA told from the perspective of a male narrator -- it just adds something really fun and different to the story. Albert sounds like my kind of guy! :) Stories that make fun of the absurdity of high school (like Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling books, some of my faves!) always win me over, too! Sounds like a great read :)

#extra entry

Bookworm said...

Love the cover. I'm a big fan of funny books!

#extra entry

Sassy CC said...

It seems interesting but not a book for me, though getting your spleen taken out is defiantly something.

#extra entry

Llehn said...

I have to admit that I had trouble wading through David Yoo's last book Girls For Breakfast. Now that you've mentioned that this book is at least 100 pages overlong, well, I'm staying away!

#extra entry

Zibilee said...

Sorry to hear that this one went on a little too long. I might still want to read it though, because I like books that have unusual protagonists. Great review!

Laina said...

That kinda sucks that you didn't love it. It sounds cool. :(

#extra entry

ProdElektra said...

Catchy title. Very catchy title.
The novel sounds very unique, which I must give credit for. It's nowhere near the usual cliche you see everywhere. The closest that comes to this is I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. good book that one, too.
But how and why did Mia and Albert even get together in the first place?:S The question irks me.
You didn't like it? That's sad:( Altho I see what you mean. Overlong novels tend to have a droning tone and be generally, well, boring.
But I'll still look out for this one:)
#extra entry

Alexa said...

Truthfully, I haven't ever seen or heard of this book. I love the cover and the title. I don't know if I would enjoy this book because I normally like books with a lot of action and twisted plot.

#extra entry

Paradox said...

This book sounds quirky and interesting, but a bit long. Albert sounds awesome, though, and if it's funny, I'll probably like it!

Kelly said...

I just gave up on Girls for Breakfast, so it doesn't surprise me to see that this one felt a little long too. Thanks for reviewing it for everyone!