Thursday, April 11, 2013

What we're reading: "Realistic" Fiction?

Well, let me put it this way: There are no faerie, no wizards, no mythical creatures, no one who sees ghosts or has special powers...but realistic? Hmmm.

I'm talking about Dead Cat Bounce, a thriller by first-time author Nick Bennett. Bennett is a former London stock trader (now residing in South Africa, where part of the novel takes place), and he has taken his experiences and put them into a teen novel about a 12-year-old boy named Jonah Lightbody, who goes with his dad on "Take Your Children to Work Day" to the financial trading floor of the prestigious London banking firm, Helsby, Cattermole, & Partners, where David Lightbody works.

David and his son don't have a good relationship (divorce, boarding school, yadda yadda), so talking his dad into taking him along is a major coup for Jonah. Turns out, though, that David isn't the most high-powered guy at the bank by a long shot--that role belongs to "the Baron," who runs the division that handles high-stakes, derivatives-oriented trading, and the Baron is curious about Jonah (and also wants to provoke Jonah's dad). Before he knows it, Jonah is sitting at the Baron's side, coding his trades for him. Jonah's dad isn't happy about this turn of events, but it's too late--the connection has been made, and after Jonah goes back to boarding school, he and the Baron develop a secret mentoring relationship that lasts four years, until Jonah is 16 and comes back to the bank for the summer to do an internship with the Baron.

All of this is quite plausible--there's lots of interesting insider knowledge about how stocks are traded, and it's a great glimpse into this world that isn't a common setting for a teen novel. But then the book takes a turn for the dramatic, and while it's exciting, fast-paced and enjoyable, the term "realistic" becomes a stretch. The Baron is up to no good and (of course) Jonah gets pulled into the middle of it and is cast in the role of hero.

If you like Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, or Harlen Coben's books about the young Mickey Bolitar, this book's definitely for you.

By the way, if you're wondering about the title, here's the definition according to Wikipedia:
In finance, a "dead cat bounce" is a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock. Derived from the idea that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height," the phrase, which originated on Wall Street, is also popularly applied to any case where a subject experiences a brief resurgence during or following a severe decline.
As an animal lover, this one is right up there with "kill two birds with one stone" for me, but it does make for a quirky title that will gain attention. (It attracted mine!) On his website, the author assures everyone that no cats were hurt in the writing of this book!

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