Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Book Review: Beat The Band by Don Calame

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA); Reprint edition (9 Aug 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0763656631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763656638
  • Get ready for riffs on hot girls, health class, and social hell! The outrageously funny boys from Swim the Fly return to rock their sophomore year.

    In this hilarious sequel to Swim the Fly, told from Coop’s point of view, it’s the beginning of the school year, and the tenth-grade health class must work in pairs on semester-long projects. Matt and Sean get partnered up (the jerks), but Coop is matched with the infamous “Hot Dog” Helen for a presentation on safe sex. Everybody’s laughing, except for Coop, who’s convinced that the only way to escape this social death sentence is to win “The Battle of the Bands” with their group, Arnold Murphy’s Bologna Dare. There’s just one problem: none of the guys actually plays an instrument. Will Coop regain his “cool” before it’s too late? Or will the forced one-on-one time with Helen teach him a lesson about social status he never saw coming? With ribald humor and a few sweet notes, screenwriter-turned-novelist Don Calame once again hits all the right chords.

Coop feels like his world is falling apart. Best friend Matt is always with his new girlfriend, Val, Sean is moping over his ex…then he gets paired with Hotdog Helen in health class.

The ridicule starts swift and sure, the masses branding Coop ‘Corndog’. The last thing he wants is to be around Helen or be associated with her. Then he hears about the Battle of the Bands. Coop figures, if he wins, people will back off and remember how cool he is. What Coop doesn’t factor in is the other kids. His reluctant friends for one…and the popular girls who are out for humiliation.

One thing is for sure, health class has changed Coop forever.

So, I have to admit, on behalf of all girls everywhere, I cringed with pretty much every word that came out of Coop’s mouth. At first. His attempt at flirting and even the way he viewed girls almost made my skin crawl. Had Coop been at school with me and acted like that, I’m pretty sure I would have reacted very similar to the popular girls.

That said, it didn’t take long for Coop to totally charm me. I loved his sense of humour and the grim determination to get the band off the ground. And yes, I even snort-laughed at Coop’s, er, tummy problems, in the library. Seriously. I couldn’t see the page from the tears of laughter.

A lot of people will say Coop is a shallow and flawed character. And he is, absolutely. But like all people, he is capable of change. And as is usually the case, it starts with a girl. I understood Coop’s reluctance to get closer to Helen. High school can be hard enough without the added pressure of doing something you know will get you teased mercilessly.

Beat the Band is cringe-worthy, romantic, hilarious and full of surprises. I am looking forward to the next instalment of the series and seeing the world from Sean’s point of view. But Coop is a hard act to follow, and I can see his book being my favourite. 


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