“When I read the synopsis of Catching the Fever, I must admit it did not appeal to me. I was half-tempted to say "sorry, no, not for me," yet having blogged for around 18 months and more importantly, having reviewed a wide variety of books, I've come to realise that those which usually seem uninviting end up being the ones you most enjoy reading.
That was the case with Catching the Fever. I started with some reservations and in the end gave in to this delightful and amusing story. Four adolescent girls coming up with a plot to save their school; to get the teen idol, Justin Crew to sing at a benefit concert.
As you've probably have guessed, the parody of Justin Crew is really Justin Beiber, (Beiber Fever ring any bells?). In fact, they were so alike in so many ways I wandered why the author didn't just use Justin Beiber instead...but I guess it comes down to copyright laws.
Let's introduce the four female friends. From me they seemed a very young version of the Sex and the City troop, though much more innocent! Claudia, the brand loving, middle class, posh-totty who really seemed to live in another world (oh how the other half live). The brands \ labels references used throughout the book do tire after a while but perhaps it's the old cynic in me who doesn't care about Louis Vuitton or the latest trend. That said, though Claudia is a bit ditsy, she is a lovable snob, who's personality makes her the victim in certain situations.
Brynn is certainly a victim of circumstance. Her mother is an alcoholic and is engaged to some rich man who just so happens to be the father of the school bitch come prefect, Alexis. She's the only one with a boyfriend, Andrew and is surprisingly frank that she isn't ready for sex.
Norah is the third girl who's painfully shy, anxious, always in the shadow of her mother and is trying to live up to her families expectations. Due to her character trait she doesn't demand too much attention or have much dialogue in the books, tending to drift in and out of the story. I half wandered why she was included until her mini story revealed itself halfway through the book.
Paisley I loved. The blonde with dreadlocks, Crew mad, chameleon loving hippie who seems to have been born in the wrong generation. What I particularly liked was the fact that the characters didn't reject her but embraced her. She was the refreshing and balanced the narration; else it could have been a very one-side view.
The four make a plan to save O'Rileys (the name of the school). To do this they recruit the crew. How do they do this? Trying, by any means possible, to meet him. Whether this is at book signings of his autobiography or stealing a BMW and going on a road trip to New York, they will meet him. Paisley, as you expect, over-reacts when meeting her idol:
"She [Paisley] attacked The Crew. They were getting taken to the big house. But most importantly, her body had been pressed against Justin’s for exactly sixty two seconds...This was the greatest day of her life."
As with most tween novels, the school is the central setting. Why? Because it's the most common environment aside from the family home which children grow up in. So naturally tween books are dominated by this setting. Let's face it, a school works perfectly in this novel; it's a place which offers escape from family life (and, as every young teen will tell you, is all that they want. The school therefore holds a meaning to all, so naturally they have to do something. And do the girls manage to recruit Crew and save the school? I won't spoil the ending.
This isn't a book which is going to deliver endless, beautiful accounts of description; it's a tween book, pitched perfectly in the plot and writing, to it's audience (age range 12 - 14 years). It's the dialogue however, where it really shines. The banter between the friends is what makes it fun and comical. The author really understands her characters and captures that close friendship bond.
The only other comment from me is on the front cover. Now before you all shout, "don't judge a book by it's cover" let me remind you that some people do. For me, the cover looks cheap and cheerful, not really professional and as though someone quickly went to Photoshop and did it on their laptop. Next time around, invest in the cover a little bit more; you want to sell you're book, unfortunately you do have to cater for those who go by the front cover.
The Verdict - With this book you get exactly was it says on the tin; it doesn't try to be something it's not. With a solid story-line and lovable characters it's an enjoyable, fun and amusing book which manages to raise a smile on more than one occasion It's perfectly pitched to it's market; the female tween, Beiber loving audience. Though I'll never catch the "Beiber Fever", I certainly caught the fever with this book. 3* Stars.
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