Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happiness is...a good book (Summer Reading edition #24)

Cat Girl’s Day Off
Author: Kimberly Pauley
Published: 2012
Pages: 334
Age Range: 10+ (technically it’s a YA but it could easily be handed to a younger reader)
Genre: sci-fi/fiction
Cover Score: * (After reading the book I could tell what they were trying to convey but I would have ignored it based on the cover had I just seen it on a shelf)
Overall Score: ***
Rating: PG

First Sentence: I opened the front door to my house and gagged.

Natalie can talk to cats.  She has a Talent for it. But no one knows that except her family and her two best friends and she’d like to keep it that way. Oscar and Melly are caught up in the celeb craziness that is sweeping their school. They live just outside of Chicago and go to the school used for filming Ferris Bueller's Day Off. A film crew is on location to shoot a takeoff, hitting all the famous spots and the two friends have signed on to be extras, convincing a very reluctant Natalie to join them.

When they watch a news clip of Easton West, a famous celebrity blogger and her 2 pets arriving in town to cover the filming Natalie notices that her cat (died pink to match West’s entire wardrobe) is yowling, saying that she’s been kidnapped and the Easton they all see is a fake. Since no one will believe a bunch of kids they take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and end up risking their lives and becoming heroes.

Mistaken identities, more kidnappings, gun play, hidden Talents, secret government agencies, a herd of cats, young love.  As they battle all of these and more Natalie comes to understand how special she is and how important her Talent can be in her family and to the world.

I wouldn’t pick this up based by on the cover though I can see why they picked all the elements they did, it’s just sort of blah (in spite of the bright colors.)  And I wouldn’t have picked it up based on the premise.  But it was a fun and silly romp through a fabulous city. The kids had fun and believable personalities. Natalie’s voice had just the right amount of sarcasm and self-loathing to keep it teen without becoming overly angsty. The celeb element (her friends over the top fan mania and the actors themselves) balanced nicely with Natalie’s more down to earth/who cares way of looking at things. She only got caught up in it all when she had to; her sense of decency and goodwill winning out over her need to lay low.  It’s not going to be a huge hit but it was a lot more fun than I was anticipating.

Here’s a taste:
“I’m going to swaddle you like a human baby,” I said.  Just hold still. You’ll be able to breathe, okay?”
He humphed, but lay there and let me swaddle him.  When I was done, he looked like one seriously ugly, furry baby, with only the front of his face sticking out.  I hoped that as long as I held him close to my chest, no one would notice.  Or maybe they’d just think I was babysitting a really ugly kid.  With a lot of pink facial hair.  And a lazy eye. (162)

And yes, of course I knew all of this sounded crazy.  There was no part of any of it that sounded remotely like normal life.  Like a normal person’s life.  But that wasn’t my life. It never had been. I mean, my little sister was doing calculus when she was three. My first good friend was a cat. My older sister was a human lie detector, and my mom had more patents than most people had cookbooks.  My dad could smell what you had for dinner two days ago if you didn’t brush your teeth well enough.  I was a freak from a family of freaks. (217)

It's sort of a soft, girly version of X-men that will find a fanbase within a certain niche of readers. As a plus for John Hughes fans, there was an author’s note giving some additional background on the movie and some of the locations mentioned in the book.

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