The hilarious friends from Swim the Fly are back in Don Calame’s sequel, Beat the Band. However, Swim the Fly‘s narrator Matt takes a back seat as the wisecracking, often irritating Cooper narrates.
Best friends Matt, Cooper and Sean are just beginning their sophomore year in high school as the story begins. On the first day of school, Cooper is paired up with “Hot Dog” Helen for a semester-long health class project on, of all topics, safe sex. Helen is nicknamed “Hot Dog” for exactly the reason that might pop immediately into the mind of a sex-crazed teen boy. In fact, the entire book appears to spring from the mind of that same sex-crazed teen boy, but the result is an absolutely hilarious story with a nice twist of a moral thrown in.
When the friends decide to join in a “Battle of the Bands,” they hope they’ll be able to off-set the negative social effects of Cooper’s being paired up with Helen. They assume being “rock stars” will earn them instant social status, but they seem less concerned about the fact that none of them actually plays an instrument than they are about trying to appear cool.
As the story develops, the laugh-out-loud moments are punctuated with a truly touching story. The constant sexual references are a bit shocking at first, but once the reader gets into the groove of Cooper’s narration, it all falls into place. Surprisingly, Cooper turns out to have a conscience, and Calame’s well-developed characters lead the reader through a side-splitting but realistic story of teens trying to fit in—and learning a lot about themselves in the process. Don Calame’s ability to emulate the voice of a pubescent teenage boy is uncanny; in Beat the Band, he does so with wit and, more importantly, compassion.