Friday, 10 February 2012

REVIEW: Beat the Band by Don Calame

Beat the Band by Don Calame
Templar Books
1 Feb 2012

Last summer Coop, Sean and Matt embarked on a daring quest to see a real, live naked girl. Now term has begun and Coop Redmond has a new mission: tag as many bases as possible. But his girl-shaped ambitions are severely threatened when he is paired with the infamous Hot Dog Helen for a class presentation. On contraception.

Coop’s plan for saving his reputation is simple – win Battle of the Bands, because no one gets more girls than a rock god. But there are a few barriers to the rock-god-girl-fest: 1. Their band is rubbish. 2. He’s getting a bit distracted by a certain presentation partner…

This is the histerious (that's Coop speak for 'when something's so freaking funny it nearly gives you aneurysm')  sequel to last year’s massively funny Swim the Fly. You can read my review of the first one here, but the basic premise was three boys’ summer mission to see a real, live naked girl. So the Inbetweeners meets American Pie meets a very good book.

The first book was narrated by Matt. While he was fully behind the idea of naked-girl-seeing, you could tell that underneath it all he was actually quite sweet and just wanted a girlfriend. In this book narrating duties have been taken over by Coop, and he’s a bit different. If Matt is the Inbetweener Simon or American Pie Jim of the group, then Coop is the Jay or the Stifler He’s obnoxious, funny and generally regarded as a bit of a nob. And at the beginning, this is exactly what you get. Coop is on a one-track mission to get as far as he can with Prudence (or anyone equally hot) and his main concern when paired with Helen is that it will ruin his chances.

But with Coop as the narrator you get to know him in a way you didn’t in the first book. As he gradually realises that he actually gets on with Helen you get to see his nice guy side (just don’t tell him you’ve seen it).

Don Calame is great at building to big laugh out loud scenes and hitting you with a punchline moment. You can see and hear the scenes in your head as if you were watching a film (perhaps because Calame used to be a screen writer).  I think the funny moments in this book were even funnier than in the last book (my favourite one involves Coop’s dad and a beer bottle) and no doubt this was helped by Coop’s own particular brand of humour. He sees potential for comedy in everything and thinks asking a man in a golf shop about his balls is the funniest thing ever (which it is).

There is also a great deal of comedy gold among the supporting characters. Coop’s dad in particular is hilarious, but also a bit tragic. He is out of work and enthusiastically helps manage the band, getting back in touch with his rock star youth. And dressing up.

The third book – Call the Shots – is going to be written from Sean’s point of view, and I can’t wait. Sean is the geeky one, the butt of all the jokes and the one who never manages to say the right thing. Calame has shown he can recreate the same world and the same humour with a completely different narrator and it will be great to get into Sean's head in the same way that you get into Coop's in this book. 

So Don Calame has done it again and written a hilarious story with a heart (plus some other body parts). I loved this book. In my pants. (That's a reference you will understand if you've read the book. If not, well... this is awkward).