Rummanah Aasi
  I read Don Calame's debut novel, Swim the Fly, a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a well written, heart warming, and hilarious coming of age comedy featuring adolescent boys and adolescent humor. It's one that I would recommend for teen boys to read. Beat the Band, the companion novel to Swim the Fly, was released last year and I finally got around to reading it.

Description: Coop wants his sophomore year to be epic. His personal goal to tag as many "bases" as possible. His goal is derailed when he is paired with the infamous "Hot Dog" Helen for a health class presentation on safe sex. Now Coop is struggling to regain his popularity by entering his musically challenged rock group featuring his best friends into the "Battle of the Bands" competition.

Review:  Coop takes over narration duties as he and his best friends, Matt and Sean, return for their sophomore year. Coop has a dream of being extremely popular, especially amongst the ladies. When his health teacher announces a project, he believes it is his time to shine. Right off the bat the hot girls in his health class are paired up with someone else and much to his horror, Coop's health partner is the only and only "Hot Dog" Helen, the school' social pariah. To make matters worse, the pair is assigned to research contraceptives for the unit on safe sex. Immediately dubbed various names including "Corn Dog Coop," he is desperate to find a way to save his social status. Thankfully, an upcoming Battle of the Bands presents the perfect opportunity for him to reveal his inner rock god and make a good impression on all the hottest girls. He recruits and convinces Matt and Sean along with his project and stealthily attempts to get rid of "Hot Dog" Helen.
  I enjoyed Beat the Band but not as much as Swim the Fly, only because I felt there was a lack of heart and the writing was a bit uneven. Calame's sense of humor is spot on and brought many moments where I laughed out loud for several minutes. Though there is crude sexual and bathroom humor in the book, Coop is just all talk. He pretends to be extremely confident in his own schemes, only find them to blow up in his face. He is likable, however, I did have moments where I wanted to smack him upside the head for being stupid, especially when it comes to dumping the beautiful and smart Helen as his partner.
  Issues such as bullying and safe sex are introduced in the book. While important facts of contraceptives are incorporated well (mostly discussed in educational terms), Calame's handle on bullying is a bit loose and could have been stronger if we knew how Helen got her misnomer ahead of time instead of the second half of the book. The many instances where Coop knew he was enabling the bully situation were a bit tedious, especially when he did nothing about it. Coop's epiphany in the end was long coming and satisfying. I loved when he finally got to see Helen as a real person without the rumors and baggage that surrounded her.
 Perhaps I'm a bit too critical of the book since I loved the previous one, but I would still recommend Beat the Band. Coop, Matt, and Sean are lovable characters with a good heart though they may act like idiots sometimes. You don't have to read Swim the Fly to enjoy this book, but I would highly recommend it because it has a great story and to get a real feel of the chemistry between these three best friends.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and mild crude humor. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Carter Finally Gets It or Carter's Big Break by Brent Crawford, Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
3 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    It's always hard to read a second book when you loved the first one, it hardly ever lives up to the feelings the first one elicited. Still sounds like you enjoyed reading it though, so that's at least something:)

  2. I very much agree with you on this book. I adored Swim The Fly. So much that I gave it to my dad for Father's Day. He also loved it. I thought it was crude, hilarious, and surprisingly sweet. I even shed a tear at the end. Beat the Band made me laugh and small, but I didn't laugh so hard that I could barely breath and I never got close to crying.

  3. Lauren M Says:

    I hadn't heard of this one before, but my interest is definitely piqued! I love books with male narrators, and Coop sounds like a lot of fun.
    I'll definitely be checking out Swim the Fly (since you liked it better)! Thanks for the review! :)

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