Author: Steven Whibley
I’m going to come out right off the bat and say I found this book to be very charming. Cat Crimes is about two enterprising young boys who start up a business called ‘The Revengers’. Their first cases are neutralising an angry cat or ‘Satan’, as they call him, and “removing” a deadbeat musician dating one of their sisters who slobs around the house playing Xbox and going on about his ‘Process’.
So, yes, the author has a sense of humour. What’s more, it’s a sense of humour that can be appreciated by both adults and young people, there has been no falling back on crass slapstick or vulgar (yes, I’m middle class, what of it?) humour like so many books for young people (boys especially).
This humour’s the icing on the French fancy that is the characters, even without it the two leads are well thought out and likeable with talents that mark them as individuals. We have Jared, the ideas man with the direction and drive of a husky on caffeine pills and Marcus, the slightly more devious tech genius. These two friends are bound together by their resourcefulness (which, incidentally, is a quality I love seeing in books for young people).
You see, they both want to go to spy camp, but their parent’s say they have to pay for it. The Revengers business is born from their desire to amass the money necessary to go. Jared comes up with ideas for things they can do, like deal with bullies and collect debts, while Marcus uses his skills to craft their website and sort out their online presence.
So the books set up and the boys get to work, and from here on in it’s just a variety of escapades and failed plans to remove the aforementioned cat and boyfriend. They’re fun sequences and I found the cat bits particularly charming, with the boys trying to do their job without hurting Satan.
So, writing; thumbs up. Plot; lots of fun. Boys; very likeable.
If I had a complaint it would be that the book seems often torn between being a wholesome adventure and ‘hip kids lit’ (yes, I’m out of touch middle class, what of it?), with the boys often being more thoughtfully considerate, than most adults would be, that their plans are harmless to anyone involved, in some cases it makes sense, in others I felt a lot like we were crossing the line into 1800’s virtue fiction. Yet on the flip side of the coin, they talk about drugs on multiple occasions, and there are a few other ideas you don’t usually see in Middle-Grade fiction. I’m not saying these mentions shouldn’t be included, on the contrary, I find the usual tactic of avoiding these subjects completely to be incredibly patronizing, I just think it’s worth mentioning, especially as I find the wholesomeness of other segments contrasts rather strangely.
I would also say that I found the illustrations to add little to nothing to my experience. They were good illustrations I just didn’t feel they matched what was going on, for example, we meet a grandma who is described as quite stylish but the illustration for her is a regular grandma.
Neither of these things are deal-breakers though, and I enjoyed reading Cat Crimes. A couple of repeated sentences mark it as the indie titles it is but the fast pace and fun excursions the reader is taken on makes it an indie title worth reading.
Jared and Marcus aren’t like other 11-year-olds…they’re also Revengers. They fix problems and they’re awesome at it-at least, they will be if they ever get a chance to show off their skills. What they need is exposure. Luckily, they have the perfect target in mind: Jared’s sister’s boyfriend. He’s a jerky, wannabe rock star, a relentless bully and he smells like old gym socks.
Enough is enough. The tone deaf jerk’s days are numbered. There’s only one hitch: Marcus already offered their services elsewhere. A stray cat with serious aggression issues apparently has a whole neighborhood boarding up their windows. What the boys think will be an easy-money job quickly turns into a dangerous game of wits. The cat’s a monster. It takes all the ingenuity the boys can muster to deal with this beast.
Two targets at once. It’s time to prove themselves as the awesome after-school problem-solvers they know they are. That is, if their plan doesn’t backfire. Because they’ll either be feared fixers or a couple kids who can’t even take out a kitten.