Bamboozle: (v) – To trick or deceive (someone)
1. To deceive by underhanded methods. (dupe, hoodwink)
2. To confuse, frustrate or throw off completely.
Banana Bamboozle: (n)
1. A ridiculously alcoholic party beverage sure to make you spew yellow before the end of the night.
2. An absolutely entertaining new novel by Becky Clark & Ted Hardwick
Banana Bamboozle: A Dunne Diehl Novel (How punderful is that!) was my first read after months of nothing but teen pregnancy books. It was a welcome and much-needed vacation from serious, issues based, contemporary YA.
I hate calling it a perfect beach read, because for some reason many people take those books less seriously. That said, summer is right around the corner which means trips to the pool, the beach and hopefully some other more exotic and exciting locations requiring planes, trains and maybe even a boat or two.
This is a perfect book to bring along, wherever your summer adventure takes you.
Since I read SO MUCH young adult, I should probably mention right from the start that this book is not a YA novel. It’s *gasp* for grownups! (Not that teens wouldn’t like it, back in my day teens read all sorts of adult books…)
Last disclaimer – I encourage you all to listen to this song from the great Colorado band Cabaret Diosa while reading this review, it helps set the mood.
Banana Bamboozle begins at a neighborhood party, a party in which a particularly alcoholic, fake tropical beverage is being served.
Our leading lady, Cassidy, is there with the leading man, note – not her leading man, which was VERY refreshing, Dan. They’re gossiping about their fellow guests when Cassidy recognizes one of the guests as her teenaged niece. When she points the girl out to Dan he revokes her bar privileges, reminding her that her niece died as an infant in a tragic house fire 14 years ago.
Cassidy isn’t known for making the best, most rational decisions, but she is stubborn – like a raccoon with something shiny in its paw. She won’t let go of this fairy tale, even if it kills her – and her sister, who is only just beginning to recover from the loss of her child.
Dan knows he needs to get Cassidy to stop prying into this girl’s life, for all their sakes, but at the moment he has more urgent fish to fry. He’s been accused of stealing money from his favorite restaurant. He didn’t do it, but one of his limo drivers might have. It’s up to him to find out which one before Officer By The Book tosses him in jail.
Banana Bamboozle is a fast paced romp through small town life with a bit of Hollywood’s seedy underbelly thrown in for good measure.
The plot is tight and keeps you turning pages so fast you barely realize how well the other elements are woven in.
This books shines a gentle light on issues such as – what happens to kids who come out as gay to their parents and peers in places where homosexuality is still severely frowned on. It takes a look at how kids end up living on the streets, and things people can do to help them become functioning adults.
It also takes a probing look at aging in youth obsessed America. And being slightly overweight (and addicted to miniature candy bars) in a society that worships thinness.
These social issues aren’t shoved in your face, they are simply part and parcel as Cassidy and Dan live their lives on the pages.
As the stress from her search for the truth becomes too much for her, Cassidy reaches time and time again for her Earthquake Kit – an emergency stash of candies and chocolate – mostly chocolates. And each time she’s hit with a pang of guilt large enough to make her grab at least one extra. Food is both Cassidy’s comfort and curse. Her relationship with it colors her every interaction.
“So, you’re in town on business? Are you buying the gym?”
Blaze laughed. “No, but I do get some time off. And eating out three meals a day takes a toll. That’s why I’m here.” He patted his flat belly. Cassidy thought maybe she should start eating out more than she already did. Clearly it helped get rid of belly fat.
There were a couple of places where I really identified with Cassidy – her need to dress for a dinner date for example, but not in the way you think:
“This is where you drink. You eat at Dollar Bills. Or Natalie’s bakery. Or the yogurt place. Or El Pepino Picante, if you like Mexican.”
“Love Mexican. How ’bout you?”
Cassidy nodded. “But I haven’t been there in a while. I’m trying to keep my clothes on a salsa-free diet.”
“Aw, c’mon. Let’s blow this popsicle stand and get some enchiladas.”
Cassidy looked down at her white blouse. “Sorry. Not dressed for it.”
It’s a long running joke in my house that I can’t eat (or cook) most of my favorite foods without wearing them by the end of the meal. I should own stock in Shout Stain Remover.
Cassidy also offers one of the best rebuffs to a sexual advance I’ve heard in a while. It works because I think it would make anyone who heard it giggle.
“Stop it. You’ll make me untidy.”
“Untidy?” Axel chuckled and stepped away.
“Yeah. I heard it on PBS. Just trying to class up the joint.”
While I identified with a lot of Cassidy’s, erm, neuroses, I truly loved Dan.
Dan is a busy man, he and Cassidy run the local newspaper together. He also has a limo service that he runs and spends a lot of time volunteering at or running The Center for street kids. He’s a thoughtful, compassionate man with a seemingly infinite capacity for kindness. With one glaring exception. Mrs Edison.
“Why are you going to Mrs Edison’s party if you hate her so much?”
“She hated me first.”
“Not true, I bet there were lots of people who hated you before Mrs Edison did.” Cassidy linked an arm through Dan’s while they walked.
“Droll, very droll.” Dan unpeeled her arm from his.
Dan also loves interjecting his “fun facts” into conversations. As Cassidy’s sister asks, “Really fun, or just ‘Dan fun’?” But Dan’s desire to share his vast knowledge of random trivia with the world is part of his charm, his way of showing that he’s connected to the world.
What I enjoyed most in this book was the quick wit and snarky humor – not to mention the delicious puns. Like Cassidy’s “sex-husband” – Her ex, who she still uses regularly for sex.
Or the moment Cassidy wakes up after her night of guzzling banana bamboozles only to discover she is completely unprepared for the hangover: “Damnit! Who forgot to buy aspirin?” she yelled. “Where are my adults?” I loved this idea of a middle-aged woman shouting for her adults. I think we all have those moments where we just want someone more responsible than us to hand us some aspirin and a remote control. (Though in my day hangovers were cured with a 5am wakeup, two aspirin and a day of hard labor. That was supposed to teach me not to party so hard…)
The introduction of characters let us get to know them quickly, and again, with humor and wit. – “I know,” Aunt Lu explained. “That’s why I’m asking Dan to be your co-owner. He’s smart He’s got skillz.”
She actually heard her aunt put the ‘z’ on the end. Lu was 82 years old and 43 percent thug. She never missed an opportunity to confront people who mistreated children or animals – often employing punctuating finger jabs; she demanded immediate and heartfelt apologies from anyone who called her “Hon”; and she sported a mysterious ankle tattoo of a scorpion that she refused to explain.
It’s hard to get to know a character in just a sentence or two, but Becky and Ted manage to pull it off: Ramses’ tobacco fortified voice resonated like the low notes on a cello. I love that phrase – tobacco fortified voice. I suspect we all have a crotchety elder in our lives who fits that description. They usually also have tobacco and weather fortified leathery skin and an emotional hide that would intimidate a rhino.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, humorous romp through these modern days, with just enough mystery to keep the pages turning – Banana Bamboozle is a good pick. It’s the perfect airplane, long train journey, lounge around the pool (or beach) book. The best part – it even tells you how to make yourself a thermos of Banana Bamboozle, the drink that starts it all!
This is rumored to be the first in a series. Here’s hoping we get a new drink recipe with each installment…