Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.
Cat is the ‘plain one’. Whilst her non-identical twin sister Tessa is out on dates and attracting compliments nearly all the time, she spends her time trying to matchmake for her friends and longing for Mr Brown, her English teacher. When Cat’s dad’s new boss arrives from the USA and comes to their house for dinner, he brings his gorgeous son Josh with him. Tessa immediately sets her sights on Josh, but despite Tessa’s best efforts, he turns her down, so Tessa and Cat conclude that he must be gay. Every straight boy on Earth would fancy Tessa, so there’s no other reasonable explanation, or is there?
Jumping to Confusions is the kind of book I would have read happily when I was in my earliest teens. I did read quite a few novels like this, then, romantic comedies for age 11 upwards. What am I saying? I used to get eight out, which was the maximum I could have on my library card, on a Saturday, and have read six or seven of them by Sunday, and then try to drag reading the couple that were left out over the rest of the three weeks’ borrowing time. There were also a few of this kind in my school library. After the Harry Potters and the Jacqueline Wilsons, they were the most fought over. So I’m sure lots of girls have really enjoyed this book and I’m sure I would have liked it when I was 12/13, but this was only, I’m afraid, an okay read, by my current standards. I don’t think I’ll read another book by this author.
It was difficult for me to get into Jumping to Confusions, partly because the voice of the narrator didn’t draw me in. Usually I don’t like teen fiction, like this, in which the humour relies on the protagonist making lots of very mildly funny mistakes. I think this is because I was never the kind of teenager who saw her life as a series of embarrassing moments. I was shy and thoughtful and when you only have a couple of friends and avoid boys because they shout rude things at you the odds are you won’t do ever do anything particularly embarrassing! I essentially couldn’t relate to Cat’s silliness.
Occasionally the tenses switched, from past to present and then back again, and the way in which it was done annoyed me. Also, there was no mystery about the main plotline. My synopsis does not really contain any more information in it than the blurb does, and I think it’s pretty obvious from that how the story will turn out. It’s clear, from the reader’s point of view, that Josh is not gay, and it’s only Cat’s low self-esteem and misplaced trust in her sister’s judgement that stops her from seeing what is obvious to everyone else.
However, I liked Cat as a character. She had many contradictions – she’s obsessed with everyone else’s romantic lives, but is convinced that boys her own age don’t fancy her. She resents her sister for being pretty and popular, but at the same time is very protective of her. I wanted to see Tessa taken down a peg or two, or at least to fall in Cat’s opinion. I was most interested in how Cat develops over the story, and this kept me reading on despite the plot. Jumping to Confusions is first and foremost a romantic comedy, the body image issues are of secondary importance to the romantic story, so it was interesting to compare the light touch of this novel with the deeper explorations found in most of the other books I have read for Body Image and Self Perception month.
Cat is only a size 14 (12 by the end of the book, after regular tennis lessons), but when she compares herself with her size six sister and mother, she feels fat. She doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the way she looks, but she wishes that she got the attention and approval that Tessa and her mum get. She doesn’t have the willpower to diet, and she has accepted this. Cat learns that other people don’t necessarily have the same ideals of beauty as her sister and Mum do, and that some consider her to be more beautiful than Tessa is. I liked that the sibling rivalry wasn’t serious, but I did want to see Tessa change a bit, and she doesn’t really.
I would recommend this book to fans of light romantic comedies. I think that the problems I had with it were mostly down to my personality, so I’m going to link to a few more positive reviews: