Verdict: This humorous mystery-caper with a fantastical premise has some refreshingly unique characters and fun dialogue, but the plot fell a bit flat.
Perfect for: Mystery fans, younger readers, fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and/or the city of Chicago. People think the idea of being able to communicate with animals is totally the best superpower ever*. Which it is.
*Sidenote: this is totally the superpower I would want. In fact, when I took the Pottermore sorting hat quiz, there was an option to have the ability to talk with animals and I was like, “why would I choose any other choice????!??” And then I got sorted in Slytherin and at first I was kind of surprised and disappointed and then I remembered that Parseltongue is a Slytherin thing and then I got excited about being able to talk to snakes and then I realized that Pottermore is fictional and I was sad. The end.
Summary: The premise of this book is that all people have “Talents” such as mind-reading or supersensory abilities. [I love it when stories are set in alternative universes and it’s like, no big deal, that people have certain abilities (see “knacks” in the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card or “working” in The Curse Workers series (SO GOOD!!) by Holly Black)]. Our heroine Natalie Ng’s Talent is she can communicate with cats, which she thinks is a pretty lame talent to have until her friends convince her that she would be the perfect person to figure out who kidnapped celebrity blogger Easton West, who has a very famous pink-dyed cat. Natalie and her friends get involved with this kitty kidnapping kaper because a bunch of celebrities come to their high school to film a re-make of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In the course of the book, Natalie and her friends retrace the steps of the actors retracing the steps of Ferris, making this story a three-layer Ferris-ception.
The tone of the book is definitely fun/funny, and part of what makes it so is the language that Natalie and her friends use, including the use of the fantastic word shmexy. Also, instead of using a bunch of swear words, the author manages to imply that characters just sweared by using “swears” such as poodle farts. The use of fake swears adds to the humor of the book as well as its PG rating.
I LOVE the cover – so eye-catching and modern and fun! And, best of all, the books’s heroine Natalie Ng is actually depicted as described in the book, unlike some other YA books that have whitewashed their covers. (Props to diversity-focused publisher Lee&Low for keeping it real.) The modernity and no-big-deal-diversity is continued throughout the book:
-TWO of the three main characters are half-Asian, and their third friend is a ‘token’ white person. And it’s no big deal.
-One of the friends is gay. And it’s no big deal.
-There is realistic and non-gratuitous use of Twitter, cell phones, and blogs.
-A girl asks a boy out on a date. And it’s no big deal. She also has no problem telling him she likes him a lot, instead of putting the reader through the whole awkward female narrator who can’t close the deal with a boy. Finally!
Diversity fun-fact: From the book, I learned that the last name “Ng” is Chinese and not Vietnamese as I thought. And it’s pronounced “Ing”.
And people use them. More than once. What more needs to be said?
One word I would use to describe the style and tone of Cat Girl’s Day Off is cartoonish. Now don’t get me wrong, cartoons are awesome, and the cartoony nature of the book is all part of the fun. However, it is possible for cartoon characters to have some depth and character development, but this book didn’t really make that happen for its characters. Yes, the villain(s) had memorable personality quirks, but they were still fairly flat characters. Worse, our girl Natalie doesn’t seem to develop much over the course of the story. Yes, she does discover that her Talent of being able to communicate with cats can come in handy, but her character doesn’t really change all that much from beginning to end. I guess you could say that Cat Girl is sorta like an episode of Scooby Doo. I suppose if that is what you are expecting, you’ll have a good time with this book, but I was hoping for a little more depth. I mean, why not?
Plot without a Cause
So, OK, the format of the story was basically a comedy-mystery-caper, and I enjoy that genre a lot. But there wasn’t a lot to make me care about the outcome. Natalie and her friends are trying to prove that a celebrity was kidnapped, but there was nothing about the celebrity that made me care that she was rescued. Also, the plot seemed to take too long to get from one place to another, so it could have used some tightening up.