Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shark Bait by Jenn Cooksey

Shark Bait
by Jenn Cooksey
Read: May 4-5, 2013 self-published
Published: June 15th 2012
Source: Kindle purchase ($.99)
Category: Contemporary YA

Previously homeschooled Camie Ramsey is being shoved into the shark-infested waters of public high school, where even helium filled, penguin bespeckled arm floaties likely won’t help keep her inexperienced, fifteen-year old head above water in that rip current of hormones and emotions.

Camie’s worldly wisdom might be severely lacking (i.e., the closest she’s come to being kissed was sitting too close to the TV whilst Jake Ryan leaned in to give Samantha that fateful 16th birthday kiss), but she does understand her only hope for survival is if she’s thrown some kind of “social” life preserver before she sinks like a freaking rock. However, what will her fate be when she endeavors to flag down the only lifeguard on duty, the enormously popular and ridiculously beautiful Tristan Daniels? The most sought after and virtually most unattainable guy in school who not only makes Camie’s heart flatline on a recurring basis, he’s also the one guy who seemingly doesn’t know she exists.
Feeling like an inept piece of chum that could ultimately be swallowed by Jaws, can Camie get Tristan to rescue her from floundering in the treacherous deep, or is she destined to be Shark Bait? (From Goodreads)

Whenever I feel like I'm missing the I-cannot-stop-reading-this-book feeling, I start picking up self-published books. Although they usually have more editing and grammatical mistakes, they are often a little less inhibited and a little more indulgent. Sometimes that's exactly what I need in a book. It's also exactly what I found with Shark Bait, which quite literally swept me away (I promise no more water analogies!).

Do you remember being in high school, liking a guy and spending hours with your friends discussing and overanalyzing every move he makes? Scheming ways to get him to notice you, or even more embarrassing, covertly stalking him (driving by his house, planting yourself where he'll be sure to walk by in school)? I will fully admit to being one of these types of girls when I was a teen. Maybe that's why I thought this book was so much fun, because Camie and her friends do all those things, but in an even more extreme and larger than life way than I could have managed. They are also way more sophisticated and proficient at it than I ever was. 

Cameron "Camie" Ramsey is a 15 year old sophomore who is entering public high school for the first time. She and her sister Jillian have been happily home schooled until this point in their lives. However, in the words of Camie, "cancer sucks," and their mom's breast cancer has made it impossible for her to teach them anymore. Having never been to an actual school before, Camie is more than a little overwhelmed at the prospect of all those people and clicks and social rules. Thankfully, she's intelligent and ready and willing to make friends and fit in, but comfortable enough in her own skin that she isn't easily manipulated. She is also chatty, and prone to long inner monologues filled with music and movie references (more on that below), and though I was worried at first that her voice would bug me after a while, I actually grew to love her. 

Two big things happen on Camie's first day of school (well actually a lot if important things happen that day, but the two at the top are) 1) Camie lays eyes on hot junior Tristan Daniels and declares her undying love for him, and 2) Camie makes a new friend named Kate who also happens to be Tristan's good friend. The significance of Kate is that she knows Tristan very well, and she is willing - no, excited - to help Camie get Tristan's attention. I wish that Kate had been my best friend in high school. She is one sharp girl, both socially aware and a brilliant schemer. Nothing gets past her, and she comes up with a fool-proof plan to catch Tristan (See where the fishing pole comes in?).

What I appreciated about this book is that getting Tristan's attention is only the first step to romantic happiness. Despite Camie and Tristan's vastly different experience levels, neither of them has been in a relationship before. They have a lot of learning to do to figure it out. What I think makes this book both fun and real is that we get to see them work out what it means to be in a relationship with another person who is just as passionate and imperfect as you are. Camie and Tristan make lots of mistakes and have massive emotional breakdowns and misunderstandings. But along the way they learn about boundaries, communication, deal breakers and what each is willing to accept and put up with in a relationship. They are not the healthiest pair (at first), but I like that there is hope along the way. However, they still have a lot of growing to go, and considering this is just the start of the series, I have a feeling that there will be a lot more drama to come.  

Although Camie and Tristan are immediately attracted to each other, one of the biggest messages in this book is that you have to be yourself to make any sort of relationship work with another person. And most of all you need open communication and honesty or nothing can save you. Despite all the crazy scheming and hilarity, and Camie's over the top exclamations of Tristan's hotness, their feelings ring true, and we are able to see their connection. 

Shark Bait is written in a clear, straightforward non mysterious writing style. Most things are explained, which is good because a lot is going on. Besides Camie, Tristan and Kate, the story features a large and colorful cast that I have a feeling will become even more important as the series progresses. Shark Bait is the first in a possibly 6 book series. Book two The Other Fish in The Sea is available now, and Book 3 releases later this summer.

Three Wishes:

1) I wish some people wouldn't automatically judge these books by their covers. The covers are whimsical but also lean a bit towards cheesy. Not one fishing pole makes an appearance in these books, but the title is a metaphor that is pretty amusing and clever in this story. Please, don't overlook these books, if you are a cover judger and find these to be lacking. 

2) I wish I recognized more of the references. This entire book is filled with references to TV shows, movies and music from past 3 decades. Granted, some of you will find this to be one of the best parts of the story. But as I am not the pop cultural guru that Camie is, so many of the references went over my head. Though Camie explains everything, a reference isn't quite as fun if you have not see the show, or remember the song. I'm also not sure that most teens today would be as well versed in John Hughes, Buffy and Friends speak as Camie is. But what do I know?  However, this should not impede your enjoyment of the book, and in fact it will make it better if you can follow along.

3) I wish Camie and Kate's scheming hadn't begun so fast. Although this book is a bit of a soap opera at times, and Camie and Tristan had a messy relationship, I actually thought that it grew realistically. My only hesitation, is that Kate and Camie meet and start scheming on Camie's first day of school. It felt a tad too fast, even for impatient teens. I know that Kate is perceptive, but I'd imagine that it would have taken a bit more time for her to get to know Camie and work up to this point. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low 


  1. Lauren, I agree that whenever I'm in that mood for a book that won't let me put it down, I turn to self-pubbed books too. I'm glad this one worked out quite well for you, although I doubt I'll pick it up anytime soon since I'm not in the mood for romance right now. Still, great review, dear! :)

  2. Oh, this sounds like my kind of book for sure:) I was TOTALLY that kind of girl you mentioned in your review: the one that would do the drive by's (or bike -by's or walk by's)of that boy I was currently crushing on. I would totally park myself somewhere that I knew he would pass by just to get a glimpse of him (and him to hopefully get a glimpse of me in return.) So, yeah, I can relate:)

    And I love that you turn to self pubby's when you want some indulgent escapism! I do the same (you nee to read Faking It, asap!! Although it is technically not a self pubby anymore.) Where did you discover this book, btw?

    And because I AM the type to know the John Hughes, Buffy and Friends references, I am definitely hitting up Amazon today to check out this series, silly cover and all:)


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