Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys

[openbook booknumber=”0064470954″][rating:4/5]

Once there was a slinkster-jamming slam-dunk band called the Goat Guys. Cherokee Bat danced and sang. Witch Baby pounded out the beat on her drums. Raphael Chong Jah-Love played the guitar, and Angel Juan Perez kept the rhythm on his bass. Soon they were a huge success. But with success came a bitter, dangerous power . . . and Cherokee knew it was up to her to save them all.

In Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys the story arc in the Dangerous Angels series continues. What started with Weetzie Bat and Witch Baby continues in this book with the kids now teenagers and the adults in the household all out of town filming a movie in South America. Naturally Cherokee, Witch Baby, Raphael Chong Jah-Love and soon even Angel Juan, who makes a reappearance, run into trouble.

At the next Goat Guys show, the band came on stage with their wings, their haunches, their horns. The audience swooned at their feet.
       Cherokee spun and spun until she was dizzy, until she was not sure anymore if she or the stage was in motion.
       Afterwards two girls in lingerie and over-the-knee leather boots offered a joint to Raphael and Angel Juan. All four of them were smoking backstage when Cherokee and Witch Baby came through the door.
       Witch Baby went and wriggled onto Angel Juan’s lap. He was wearing the horns and massaging his temples. His face looked constricted with pain until he inhaled the smoke from the joint.
       “Are you okay?” Witch Baby asked.
       “My head’s killing me.”

In a lot of ways I think this book is the most distinctly YA novel in the series. It focuses on the younger generation and problems unique to youth: self image, relationships, finding yourself, growing up.

At the start each of the four characters feels inadequate in one way or another. When they perform on stage they freeze up, when they try and initiate a relationship with someone else they feel rejected or aren’t even brave enough to make the attempt, they feel bare, defenseless and powerless in an overbearing world. Coyote, a Native American friend of the family, steps in and offers to help Cherokee create gifts from nature (wings from feathers, goat pants from goat fur) to give each of the four teens outward strength from material things to solve inward problems. Naturally these objects are magical in nature, and naturally they unintentionally result in more problems then they solve.

The rest of the book covers the uncomfortable, dizzying and at times exhilarating descent into a world of late night jams and eventual sex, drugs, smoking, drinking and all night parties. This is where the book had most of its power. To show these things in both the positive (exhilarating, powerful, ego enhancing) and the negative (exhausting, damaging to health both mental and physical, losing control). This is something teens can see and relate to from a source they will listen to as well.

By the end of the book the teens must learn to pull their strength from inside themselves instead of their material trappings and learn how to help each other step back from the edge of self destruction. A powerful and poignant YA novel. Highly recommended.

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