Book Reviews

Kitty Kitty: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

Kitty Kitty by Michele JaffeJasmine Callihan is back and better than ever in Kitty Kitty by Michele Jaffe! And, boy am I excited about that. “Kitty Kitty” will be released in July 2008 by HarperTeen (part of HarperCollins coincidentally enough), so you’re seeing the review here first.

Kitty Kitty picks up a month or two after the ending of Bad Kitty (Jaffe’s madcap YA debut featuring Jasmine). This time around, Jasmine is in Venice, the most romantic city in the world, and in a beautiful hotel. The only problem is that Jasmine is there with her ogre-iffic father and her step-mother Sherri! In other words, Jasmine is really far away from her friends, her rock star boyfriend, AND the prestigious high school that would look great on her college applications.

Why you may ask? So Jasmine can be home-schooled (not from her actual home) while she takes intensive Italian lessons and her father writes his definitive book on the history of . . . soap. Jasmine is understandably put out by all of these abrupt life changes. But what really upsets her is the apparent suicide of her friend from Italian class–the mysterious and eccentric Arabella. Except Jasmine isn’t so sure that Arabella’s death really was a suicide.

Mayhem ensues as Jasmine begins to investigate Arabella’s life in order to understand what could have provoked her death. Atrocities include bangs on the head as well as an unfortunate encounter with a pair of white leather pants. Oh, and Jasmine turning to Mr. T as a new role model (although that last one might not be so bad depending on who you ask!).

Stylistically, Jaffe continues to use a variety of writing techniques to create a truly modern reading experience. Techniques that reappear in this volume include footnotes, email and instant messaging excerpts as well as pictures created with words. These devices help keep the novel interesting–there’s a lot of information presented in a lot of different ways. At the same time, it makes readers extra aware that they are reading. But that’s okay here because it encourages a close reading of the text in some cases–an important skill found in what can be called a light read.

Some parts of the novel seem contrived, such as Jasmine’s friends coming to her rescue, but with blow dart pens and tricked out cowboy boots this novel, like Bad Kitty before it, is more cartoon than true-to-life-drama anyway. (A style that Jaffe once again pulls off very well.) And who wouldn’t want to read more about Jasmine’s motley group of friends? Best friend/fashion genius Polly; lock picking, wise-cracking twins Tom and Roxy; and even Jas’ evil cousin Alyson and her evil sidekick Veronique reappear with just as many made up words and fashion faux pas as before. My only qualm about the novel is that the cat angle that was so crucial to Bad Kitty is also not as strong here since no cats feature as more than passing characters in the narrative.

Another odd addition is the presence of a mysterious sender of e-mails and an as yet undeveloped sub-plot involving Jasmine’s dead mother (this person and the fact that Jasmine’s mother died when she was six turn up more in this novel than the first, which didn’t mention mysterious e-mails at all). Aside from being a fine example of a writer spinning backstories into a series as she writes the series, this new plot thread suggests that Jasmine will return again soon.

Possible Pairings: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, Bloomability by Sharon Creech, My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Fracture by Megan Miranda, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, CSI (television series)

Book Reviews

Bad Kitty: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bade Kitty by Michele JaffeThe phrase laugh out loud isn’t used that often now that “lol” has flooded the Internet in a big way. Personally, I think that’s a loss. It’s also a subject for a different kind of post though. My point here is that people don’t often talk about things that really make them laugh out loud–literally laughing, out loud. Bad Kitty (2006) by Michele Jaffe is a novel that had me laughing for most of it. It also has the distinction of having zero one star reviews on amazon.com. And, to make it even cooler, Bad Kitty is also my latest CLW selection.

Bad Kitty is Michele Jaffe’s first novel for a young adult audience. (She is also the author of several novels for adults including Bad Girl and Loverboy.) The story starts when Jasmine Callihan and her family are vacationing at a posh hotel in Las Vegas.

Jasmine believes that everyone has a superpower. For instance, her best friend Polly has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion. And Jasmine’s stepmother, Sherri!, is impossible to hate. As for Jas’ own superpower, well, she isn’t really sure yet. (Though, if readers like Jasmine anywhere as much as I do, they might have their own ideas at the end of the novel.) She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And cats really like her.

Unfortunately, those things together lead to nothing but trouble for Jasmine. It all starts when a psychotic cat (followed by a psychotic man in a mesh shirt) chase Jasmine around the resort. Soon, Jasmine finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving the psychotic, three-legged, cat and his family. The story here is zany and fun as Jasmine and her friends run around trying to solve the case in spite of the annoying presence of Jasmine’s evil cousin Alyson and her evil hench Veronique. Another annoying presence is that of Jasmine’s father who is determined to keep Jasmine’s dream of fighting crime just that–a dream. Despite her father’s discouragement Jasmine manages to conduct her investigation, albeit with untraditional tools like eyeshadow instead of conventional fingerprint dust.

Some book characters are flesh and blood–others are more pen and ink. Bad Kitty is definitely what I would term a cartoon-ish novel, but in the best way. The story is peppered with Jasmine’s material for her Meaningful Reflection Journal, preparation for writing college essays next year, including Little Life Lessons as well as some very entertaining haikus (“Cute guy at Snack Hut / Why won’t you remove your shirt? / It’s so hot (you too)”).

Bad Kitty is basically an amalgamation of a lot of different genres. It has some teen romance, some mystery/suspense, and a lot of comedy. A lot of times, that doesn’t all come together to make a decent novel–with “Bad Kitty” it does. The novel is very similar to Meg Cabot’s latest Jinx with semi-obvious romantic subplot and the foreshadowing, but Jaffe does it better. Strongly recommended for anyone who likes “classic” chick lit.

Possible Pairings: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Fracture by Megan Miranda, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, CSI (television series)