The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis

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The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A second book in this series that doesn't quite match the brilliant first, but will still appeal to the under-served audience.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2015
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780192736963

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Joe Cowley has got it bad. Whatever it is, he's got it bad. The hots for his girlfriend, Natalie? Bad. Living arrangements with his ex-school-bullying-nemesis-turned-step-brother? Very bad. Some greasy swazz trying to take his girlfriend from him, at the same time as sucking up to her father who is also his business mentor? Pretty awful. An attitude that means a devil-may-care voice in his head leads him to support his oddball friends through a dance music competition just to get one over on the swazz? You can guess, what with that being the main thrust of the plot here, that that too is B A D bad.

However, the book itself is pretty much G O O D good. It's just not as brilliant as the first in the series. What was evident then and what still stands out is that this is a cockingly clever read, and right up the street of any sensible fifteen year old, who cannot really pass time (in public at least) with Wimpy Kids et al, and needs something a bit more mature. Here there are semi-made up swear words, a reality to the banter (witness the jibes about Joe's sustained virginity) and more that will put this on a higher shelf in the store, but closer to the heart of the older YA reader.

But the fact that this can be placed so simply in parallel with other franchises does suggest that this one is of similar DNA, and might fall into the same routine trap. Unfortunately, to some extent, it already has. There is always one of these books where a talent show happens – the Dork Diaries have it, Wimpy Kid has it, even Big Nate's band tries to do the school assembly shows. Here it might be a contest pitching Joe's friends against a rival DJ, and the writing about their music making is fine, but it only leads to a somewhat clichéd plot. Before now there was little use of that certain C-word to be had.

Before now, also, there was more character to Joe. He was outspoken in the past about liking Pink Floyd, and I know I said that was unlikely and out of touch in my previous review, but here he just says he doesn't understand dance music. There's little in the way of making Joe unique, however selfless and hard-done-by and put-upon he might be. Similarly, Ad the idiot friend and Harry the Churchillian friend are just that, and are looking very one-dimensional, however many knobs and 808s they twiddle with. Yes he's a bit of a geek, sharing a love of Star Trek with his lovely Natalie, but Joe's getting to be a bit too generic.

Still, to the book's credit remains the sense of humour, which once again is spread between 'oh that's why that was mentioned, like 300 pages ago' call-backs and witty, blunter one-liners. The strength of the writing is still there, and is still sustained to the end – and even with the sketchy illustrations this book is certainly not as short as some of its ilk. There is no sense of this series ending, even with a slight yet pronounced drop in novelty and craft, especially with the ending as given here, but I do have to hope one new element to the tale will not feature greatly in future. This wraps my thoughts up, then – the fact I am still thinking of a future where I read this series, even if it has taken a step away from greatness and a stride towards mediocrity. The adept comedy and the fact this type of story just isn't nearly available enough for this age bracket, does make me intrigued as to where the blog will take us.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The series began here. The same audience will enjoy the voice – and circumstances – within Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin.

Buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Return of the Geek by Ben Davis at Amazon.com.


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