The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis
|The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Sterling work, if only for being fresh and different enough to fill a real gap in the market – although its merits don't end there.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: April 2014|
Meet Joe Cowley. He's the kind of doofus who will pretend to be from New York, when his life really revolves around a horrid existence in a secondary school near Birmingham, a life shared with his mother and a visit to his dad and Russian mail-order bride every Sunday, and two friends – Harry, who speaks as if he is a member of an ancient Gentleman's Club, and Ad, who's – well, just thick as two short planks. He can barely get through the day without being tormented by his enemies at school, saying the wrong thing entirely or just cocking things up, hence this, his blog, for him to vent and escape a while. But at least he knows his worth when it comes to getting a snog off the school's most desirable girl – doesn't he? And at least he can keep the torments of real life at arm's length – can't he?
It is quite ridiculous to state this, but it might as well be fact and not just my opinion – this book is targeted at a huge gap in the market, and luckily enough for us all is good enough to fill it singlehandedly. This is the teenage blog that, given a few years, the readers of the Wimpy Kid will grow to need as their favourite reading. This is the male reader's equivalent of the equally brilliant Rachel Riley diaries. This is just a brilliant amalgamation of theatre of embarrassment, with a sympathetic yet engaging lead, a realistic and entertaining narrative voice, and a full-on sense of humour.
I know what you're thinking from seeing the cover – that puff about it being the 'funniest book you'll read this year'. Of course it's a stupid idea, a nonsensical comment, but if anything this book is closest to deserving the hyperbole. The great thing about the comedy here is its very intelligence; the sense of humour is wide-ranging, from the callback stretched over what might actually be far too long a reading time, to the immediate, punchy quip. I might be more accurate than the designers by saying this is the funniest teen read for guys out there, but as I say, the market was so bereft that's a bit of a moot point. What’s a delight to report is that it is almost as humorous as the publishers pretend – and in a real teen-friendly way. There are willy jokes, laughs to stretch the norm of YA writing, and more – even a very undersold double entendre on page 306 of my proof copy that got a thumbs up by itself.
Yes, there are definitely things here that younger readers that will have witnessed by now – problems with zits, problems with idiot friends and idiot parents, problems with life itself. But this book successfully stretches things as regards willies, parental sex and the use of cocking as a cussing adjective to make this definitely a teen-only read. And it's all the better for it. What that does mean is I'm left with the sneaky suspicion that the greater arc of the story, the whole rise-before-the-fall, and the ridiculous plot device of a home-made computer projection, might be a bit too silly and a little too bloody obvious for the target audience. But again I'm on the side of this book as being so wanted and so necessary for this audience that I can't really mark it down.
I do think the format isn't addressed completely perfectly – some of the blog entries have the snappiness of real life, some go on and on, written from the emotional safety of the day after, and must have taken the lad Joe hours and hours to type. To repeat, there is a case to be had for it being a tad too long, if only for some the jokes. I also think that, just as with Rachel Riley, the author is putting too much of his own tastes and experiences into things – Skyping takes a large place in the plot, and there is a brilliant joke against pop star Usher, but there are also references when relevant to A Flock of Seagulls, and Trekker-out-of-his-time Joe's favourite band is a risible and unlikely Pink Floyd, which shows our author's own taste and age bracket more than anything. So the cultural references aren't great, but aside from that I think the author and his debut in this series really has hit the ground running. Joe and the weird voices in the control room in his head deserve many more volumes, and so does this limited category of YA titles. An essential read for a neglected audience.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Rock War by Robert Muchamore is the start of a different kind of teen series, from a much more experienced author.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis at Amazon.com.
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