While I have to confess Cherry Cheva‘s sophomore novel is not quite the fabulous fun of her 2008 debut, She’s So Money, I’ll also insist that DupliKate (with the oh so perfect title!) is undoubtedly an entertaining read that will keep you quickly turning the pages. My teenage daughter chose to forgo swimming with endless tropical fish in order to finish the book because she simply couldn’t put it down. That Cheva (full name Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a Thai American originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, now based in LA) has a day job writing for Family Guy probably makes her quite an expert in adolescent-speak-and-think.
Katerina Larson – smart, determined, attractive – has exactly 11 days to ace (as always) her final exams, retake her already-highly-scored-but-not-quite-perfect SATs, write her personal statement college essay, and file her Yale application. The plan is that Kate and her hottie-valedictorian-basketball-team-captain-boyfriend who’s already a Yale legacy shoe-in will be blissfully together in New Haven come fall. Besides the boyfriend, Kate’s also dealing with neglecting her best friend, having to work with a slacker physics partner who was once her closest buddy until she ditched him freshman year, and most importantly, being chronically sleep-deprived.
When she wakes from an unintended late-night nap, Kate finds herself face-to-face … with herself. Out of her computer appears Rina, a “SimuLife” computer-game double she created years ago, body glitter and all. Rina, a nickname Kate thought seemed so much cooler back in 8th grade, is here in the flesh … and right now in the midst of countdown anxiety, Kate has no way of dealing with her until after December 15th.
Rina has spent the last four years stuck in endless boredom and she’s more than ready for a few adventures. Once Kate gets over the initial shock, she finds having doubled herself is not such a bad thing. Rina proves surprisingly helpful, making her flash cards, going to boring meetings so Kate can study, hanging out with Kate’s neglected friends … and even spending quality time with her whining boyfriend. Maybe having Rina around isn’t so bad … until Rina begins to enjoy Kate’s life a little too much …
In spite of her easy-to-appreciate prose, Cheva occasionally trips when her protagonist tends towards overly shallow self-absorbtion, not to mention annoyingly blind boyfriend worship (she really is too smart for that!). A reminder or two that a world exists beyond overflowing closets, shopping, Starbucks runs, high school GPAs and rankings, and Ivy applications might also have been welcome.
Minor quibbles aside, Cheva’s wild premise proves especially timely with today’s overachieving, overscheduled teens trying to somehow balance their academic, social, and family commitments – a seemingly impossible feat these days … without a double, ahem! In such a goal-driven environment, even the parents are overworked Ivy-degreed superachievers, including Kate’s mostly absent attorney single mother.
Somehow, Kate laudably stays true to herself, never taking the easy way out (except for the one day she skips classes for a much-needed sleep-in), even when opportunities are practically forced upon her. And, ultimately, both Cheva and Kate earn high marks for both effort and final clarity.
Readers: Young Adult