Friday, 16 January 2009

Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight / Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow

Summary - Joel would prefer to get through his final year of high school without Cat Davis or his mother's faux Spanish boyfriend and just hang-out with his best-friend Luke.Cat Davis has an annoying best-friend, an even more annoying little brother, and a deep abiding hatred of Joel Hedges.

Due to an unfortunate incident involving a leaking pen and suspected outbreak of Bird Flu, Joel and Cat are forced to sit next to each other in Extension English. To make matters worse, and to their mutual horror, they are paired together for a tandem story writing assignment.

What ensues reveals a lot about how smug teenage boys are and what teenage girls really think. No, wait – it's about a sane female and an insane male. It's about revenge and mistaken identity.

Review - I very briefly mentioned this novel in my review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. I did this because I think this novel is a better representation of what two YA authors, of different genders, can achieve together. The narrative here is strong and yet generally light in tone. It is evident that there was planning involved in the direction of the narrative and thus each chapter contributes to drawing the story along as well as the growth of each character.

Joel and Cat have a past history that comes back to haunt both of them when they are forced to work together on a tandem narrative assignment. This is a great method of storytelling as our characters are forced (like their author counterparts) to collaborative on a graded story. Joel wants to write about a spy with the emphasis on action and gun fire whereas Cat wanted to evoke the genteel nature of Jane Austen. Needless to say, the dynamics are explosive.

Each author does a fabulous job at depicting a well rounded character, complete with compelling home lives filled with strange and loveable minor characters. We truly get to know Joel and Cat as individuals, as well as their families. Their banter is quick, organic and flows like an absolute dream. Not only that, it's humorous as all heck and I found myself laughing out loud at several points during the one sitting in which I demolished Earls and Sparrow's words.

I am not going to discuss the plot as many surprises are revealed as the story unfurls. What I can say is that it is vastly enjoyable read with a distinct Australian voice. Bec and Nick should be heartily commended on this novel. It has set the bar for collaborative, alternating-perspective writing projects for me. If you have the chance, hunt this novel down, it will be worth it.

Published: 2007
Format: Paperback , 252 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group
Origin: AUST
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Penguin Author Profiles: Rebecca - Nick
Nick Earl's Official Website
Rebecca Sparrow's Official Website
An extract
Interview - text
Interview - video
Penguin Q&A - Rebecca - Nick


Alea said...

I really really want to read this book. I have no idea how to get a copy in the US though. :/ Any advice?

Anonymous said...

In response to Alea,
If you can't find it in-store, I'd suggest checking out ebay, amazon, or the publisher, Penguin Group's website. It should be available in America through Penguin's American branch in New York.

Nomes said...

I just read this (in one deliciously lazy sitting). i grinned my head off the whole way trough it. I love this kind of contemp ya, fun and heartfelt and truly hilarious.

great review, alele