Review: I recommend all the Swim the Fly books to my reluctant readers. Boys love the hilarious humor and bromance while the girls love the humor plus the unexpected romance. What I think resonates with my reluctant readers is the authentic teen male voice, language and the thought processes (more like, the lack of) of his main characters. The books are a very fast and easy read, full of heart. You don't have to read the Swim the Fly or Beat the Band before jumping into Call the Shots.
While Swim the Fly will always be my favorite in this series, Call the Shots is Coop's turn to be in the spotlight. He has just learned that his mother is pregnant, and, as a result, he will have to share a bedroom with his scary and weird sister, Cathy. Coop convinces Sean and Matt to join him in a scheme that he guarantees will reward them with more than enough cash to put an extension on Sean's house. The plan is to make a horror movie and win the $50,000 prize at TerrorFest. Sean hopes that the film will get him out of bunking with his annoying twin and maybe even land him a girlfriend. Of course Coop's plans backfire big time with a whole lot of laughs. There is one scene at the mall in particular that had me laughing so hard I had to close the book, wipe my tears, and wait for the images to clear in my head before I could start again.
Along with the hysterical hijinks the boys find themselves into and get of, Coop does become his own person and develops self-confidence. He realizes that he is passionate about film-making and might make it his career. There is also a nice romance subplot with a surprising love interest. I will say, however, the one thing that really bothered me in the book was his family assuming Coop was gay for comedy effect and then when the topic is really talked about, it is just skimmed over. I would have loved for this important subplot be explored and expanded upon. I will definitely miss these clueless characters.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Words of Caution: There is strong crude humor, some language, and drugs are mentioned and used. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.
If you like this book try: Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner, Son of the Mob series by Gordon Korman, A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Review: I have mixed feelings about Love and Other Foreign Words. On the one hand I liked Josie who was incredibly intelligent and insightful. I also loved her strong, positive bond with her sister Kate, which is not seen too often in YA. On the other hand I had a hard time with her obsession in proving her future brother-in-law was a bad fit for her sister. The pseudo-war on Kate's fiance took up almost three-fourths of the book and it made the story drag for me. While I understood the author's intention of using Kate and her fiance's relationship as a litmus test for romance for Josie, I wanted more of Josie's own journey towards romance and her 'aha' moment. While Josie does find romance, it felt underdeveloped and promising characters like her best friend, Stu,were under-utilized. I would recommend this book to readers who like to 'study' romance, but be aware that the actual romance in the book is not its main focus.
Rating: 3 stars
Words of Caution: There is some language and crude humor. Recommended for Grade 8 and up.
If you like this book try: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Abundance of Katherines by John Green, This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer