Joe Cowley is still sharing a bedroom with his disgusting not-really-stepbrother Gav. Still humouring his wannabe DJ mates Harry and Ad. Still dating the emo-tastic Natalie. And still recording all his trials and tribulations in his secret (for now) blog. He may be a little bit older and a little bit wiser (or so he thinks) but he’s still getting into one humiliating escapade after another too.
This second ‘anthology’ of Joe’s blog revolves around his desperate attempts at getting into Natalie’s dad’s good books. Unfortunately her ex Sebastian is doing his best at winning her back, starting by turning her dad against Joe. Seb is rich, popular and already has Natalie’s dad on his side, but Natalie still prefers Joe. Unfortunately Seb has a new ally – Lisa, the popular girl Joe dumped after she used him. She was trouble when they were together but she’s even more trouble now.
Whilst not quite as deliciously filthy as the first outing (perhaps our Joe is growing up a bit), it’s still brazenly honest, and still entirely unsuitable for (most) adults. Things are getting more complicated for Joe, but not just because Ben Davis keeps writing him into inextricably embarrassing corners and pushing him into constantly cringe-worthy encounters. I daresay many teenage boys will recognise more of themselves in this book than they do in many other, more serious YA novels.
Diaries being for girls (and wimpy kids), when fourteen-year-old Joe Cowley needs to get things off his chest he turns to his blog. Which is basically a diary anyway. And one posted on the world wide web.
Generally speaking, things are not going too well for Joe. Not only is he being terrorised at school by the frankly unevolved Gav James, but he’s never kissed a girl – the closest he’s come is a post-ride attempt at a fairground, which ultimately involved a little too much vomiting on his part to secure him a great reputation.
What’s more, both his divorced parents are now seeing new people and Joe doesn’t like either of them. His dad’s Russian girlfriend Svetlana is rather blunt with the English language, and his mum’s new bloke Jim wants his son to come and live with them. Joe returns home from a stellar victory against Gav James involving water balloons and wee to learn that his mum has agreed. Then Jim’s son shows up, and only he and Joe really know why he smells of urine…
With The Private Blog of Joe Cowley, Ben Davis finds a niche in a genre that already has several big names but quickly makes himself right at home. It lacks the knowingness and irony that make the earlier Adrian Mole books aimed more at people twice Adrian’s age, and it’s far too honest about what it’s really like to be a teenage boy to be as wholesome as its American counterparts.
The book is crammed full of dirty jokes (Ben Davis has a very idiosyncratic sense of humour, especially apparent regarding his lipstick/Chihuahua gag, of which I will say no more…) and is thus entirely unsuitable for (most) adults. The filthiness aside, however, there’s a genuinely nice story about respect and trust underneath it all.
Though you have to wonder whether those privacy settings will survive too far into the hopefully inevitable sequel, given how this one ends.