Cathy's Book by Jordan Weisman, Sean Stewart and Cathy Brigg

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Cathy's Book by Jordan Weisman, Sean Stewart and Cathy Brigg

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A creditable attempt at a piece of multi-format fiction for the text and instant messenger generation, but it suffers from a lack of authorial tone and properly thought-out drive to the narrative. There is mileage in the idea, but this book hasn't quite found the winning formula.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: January 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747594741

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Cathy is in her last year at high school but like most girls her age, she wishes she were just that little bit older. So, when she gets a rich and glamorous boyfriend, she omits to tell him quite how old she really is. Victor takes Cathy to upmarket restaurants and out for flights in his own plane. Unsurprisingly, Cathy is well on her way to falling in love. When Victor dumps her unceremoniously, she's devastated. And unsurprisingly too, the dumped Cathy demonstrates her immaturity by deciding to make life as difficult as possible for Victor. Despite the warnings about stalking from her sensible best friend Emma, Cathy breaks into Victor's house. What she finds leads her down some very dangerous paths.

Insert elements from vampire stories, Chinese triads, Fatal Attraction, Highlander and all sorts of other thrillers.

Cathy's Story fell a little bit flat for me, I'm afraid. It's been a huge hit stateside though - largely due to its central conceit that it's a piece of um... how to put it... multi-media fiction. The telephone numbers in the book are real telephone numbers, there are websites and forums, you can listen to messages left for the various characters. You, the reader, are responsible for solving at least part of the mystery in this teen thriller. This is odd, because the traditional narrative is wrapped up in the last pages. If there was a cliffhanger there, I'm afraid I didn't notice it. Despite my impending dotage and despite realising that said impending dotage means I'm probably less likely to enjoy multi-media fiction than the teenager it's intended for, I'm all for stretching the traditional idea of the novel to incorporate new media. I think it will happen, I think it should happen. I think it's a great idea. Sadly though, I don't think Cathy's Story has found the winning formula.

There's a very appealing, relatively light, thriller for teen girls in this book. It has lots of tension, lots of great observation and a slightly supernatural element that girls of this age will love. The text is decorated with doodles in the same way girls decorate their schoolbooks with doodles. Cathy herself is a great character - arty, bolshy, impetuous, self-obsessed, vulnerable. I was certainly rooting for her. However, I read the story and it ended. Quite why I'd want to go and find clues about a finished story, I'm not sure. Perhaps I should have looked while I was reading? But that would have interrupted the flow, and does anyone, even an instant messenger-addicted teenager, want to read a book while checking an online forum? Surely not.

Great idea with the new media. Nice story. They just didn't mesh for me. Sorry.

You can check out the associated websites here: and

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

After this book, you might enjoy reading the sequel. A rather better, but still stylised, thriller is Being by Kevin Brooks.

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Hope Radford said:

Dear sir/madam, I am writing you this email in regard to your comments on the book "cathy's book". At the end of your review I noticed that you commented don the fact that the evidence was pointless and that the storyline was a little weak. From this I had to conclude that perhaps this is not you genre of book. For a start I too, am pass the targeted audience for this book but I am a great fan of mystery books. I thought that the idea of an "evidence pouch" was a highly excellent idea because it gives the reader an opportunity to try and guess what will happen next. I also thought that the storyline was rather good too. Or it is the response of several of my students. I also thought that the book would not be a suitable read for "tweens" because the book has been rated at 14+ and also I personally thought that some of the content was not suitable for children in primary schools. Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail. Best regards H.Radford.

Jill replied:

Hi Hope, thanks for writing in. I don't review books with an eye to my personal preference; I review them with an eye to their 'slot' in a crowded market. Cathy's Key and Cathy's Book are both light books fairly short on literary merit and challenge and fairly long on product placement and brand awareness. As such, I - correctly, I hope - rank them some way below other books that are reviewed on the site. Two excellent mystery stories that might interest you are The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd and Bloodchild by Tim Bowler, both of which have considerably more to offer than the Cathy series. I am sorry to say that I would object strenuously if this series was used as an educational resource at my children's school. Children in the UK finish primary school at age 11, and I certainly see nothing in these books objectionable for early years secondary children. The TV news is more explicit. We beg to differ, I'm afraid! But thanks for taking the time to share your opinion.