Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: Fetching by Kiera Stewart

Fetching Kiera Stewart
Fetching by Kiera Stewart
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 296
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Olivia has just about had it with the popular kids at school. She and her friends have done nothing to deserve evil pranks and awful name-calling, but that doesn't stop queen bee Brynne from humiliating them on a daily basis. If only Olivia's classmates were more like the adorable dogs she helps her grandmother train--poorly behaved, but improvable. Wait...what if her tormentors' behavior actually could be modified using the same type of training that works on dogs? Olivia and her friends are desperate enough to give it a try. But is it really possible that the underdogs of Hubert C. Frost Middle School could make it to head of the pack?


Wait, there's no magic here??

I know I don't usually read contemporary books, but I have a not-so-secret weakness for funny contemporary books, especially when they deal with Lite Issues like zits and dating and stuff. As soon as I saw the blurb, I knew I had to read Fetching. Plus, there's behaviorism (!), and for those who don't know, I'm a big fan of behaviorism.

(In the case of Fetching, behaviorism is never mentioned by name but is used through the dog training methods Olivia employs on her peers.)

Middle school is a battlefield

Narrator Olivia is a pretty cool girl and definitely someone I'd sit with at lunch. She's very "generic teen" in that her personality isn't all that different from your average teen in a book like this, but that's ok. She freezes up when popular people talk to her, she tries to guess the color of the M&M in her mouth, and she wishes her hair was glossy and not frizzy. I get her. It's Olivia's "generic-ness" that made me like her so much because it was super easy to imagine myself in her shoes.

And, ugh, what horrible shoes she's filling. The book opens with Olivia suffering the embarrassment of wearing one-size-fits-all school pants. You know, the kind of pants no one in their right mind would ever wear but schools keep on hand as some sort of salt in the wound extra for kids whose pants are for whatever reason rendered unsuitable for wear.

(I had to wear a pair of school provided purple corduroy pants one time because Amy Grover spilled apple juice all over my own pants. Thankfully I was in pre-K and so most of my peers were more concerned with nap time and paint tasting, but I have still never forgiven Amy. The shame of wearing school provided pants is just not something you overlook).

And why is Olivia subjected to the torment of school provided pants? Because mean girl Brynne secretly put a ketchup stain on the seat of Olivia's pants and the whole school pointed and laughed at Olivia's "feminine accident." Ouch.

At that point I knew I had to read the rest of the book. I needed to see Olivia get revenge on Brynne. And thankfully, she does. Big time.

Ugh, did you say mean girls?

I know, I know, the mean girl story is totally played out. And even though I'm like that little kid with a blankie refusing to throw it out even though it's worn and old and totally disgusting and, really, at this point no longer looks even remotely blanket-shaped and is pretty much a tiny knotted ball of string (which is to say, I don't like letting things go), even *I'm* kind of tired of the mean girl plot.

But Fetching breathes new life into the story by arming Olivia and her friends with dog training techniques of revenge. Not only is it funny, but it was fascinating seeing how Olivia took the lessons she learned from her dog trainer grandmother and applied them to her peers. The best part is, those techniques totally work and Kiera Stewart described the results of Olivia's efforts exactly as they would happen if this were a real life experiment.

(And, yeah, there's a Don't Try This At Home, Kids! warning toward the end, but seriously, you should totally try this at home. Ok, I don't mean you should train your peers to shun someone, but if you're having trouble getting your kids to focus on their homework or you want your boyfriend to take out the trash, then you should definitely try applying some dog training techniques. It works.)

The rest of the pack

The side characters were a mixed bag for me. I had a hard time distinguishing Olivia's friends and they never really rose to Full Character Status for me. Every time one of them spoke I had to remind myself "Oh yeah, she's the one with the marker lips" or "She's the one with the acne" or "She's the other one." The most distinctive of Olivia's friends was her guy friend Johnny, but that's because he's incredibly annoying and I hated him (also, he's a guy, so that's a fairly notable trait).

There's a little romantic potential, but it never fully develops. Both potential guys are crush worthy (though one, I thought, MUCH more than the other), but neither play a big part. The shadow of Olivia's mother (currently residing in a mental institution) is cast over everything Olivia does, but even with my strong dislike of the Mentally Ill Mother ploy, I actually wasn't bothered at all. Olivia's handling of the situation was just one more thing that made me like her. Olivia's grandmother was sweet, but she's also pretty "generic grandma."

I'd give this book a cookie

The plot moves along pretty well as Olivia introduces new steps in her Behavior Modification Plan for Middle School Domination. Breaking up that narrative are little aside scenes here and there where Olivia trains actual dogs (cute and very funny!) and talks with her therapist Moncherie (yes, that's actually her name, and I love her).

About three quarters of the way through, Olivia has the inevitable falling out with her friends and emotional look at the softer side of the mean girl. It's all very been-there-done-that predictable, but my positive feelings toward Olivia kept my interest and I even grudgingly started to...well, "like" isn't exactly the right word, but I started to sympathize with Brynne.

Even with the dip in action, Fetching gets points from me because when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it and trying to rationalize pushing off necessary things like chores and tv shows in favor of reading (though Fetching did not manage to distract me from eating).

Bottom line

I kind of wish a kid would come into my library complaining about bullies and mean girls because I really want to provide a "Life Changing Moment" by handing them this book. But Fetching has already been making its rounds among my library kids (I'm late to the party on this one), so it looks like my thunder has been stolen. But that's ok.

Other things to note: This is a MG book, but I think YA readers should enjoy it, too. It's written on the upper end of MG and while it takes place in middle school, it easily could take place in high school. Fetching is a standalone.

This is Kiera Stewart's debut, and I am definitely keeping my eye out for whatever she writes next. I'm also maybe secretly hoping the Disney decides to turn this into a Disney Channel Original Movie (or, um, based on a book movie).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Fetching that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it on Goodreads!
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Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 
Babe in BoylandDitched Robin Mellom

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.


  1. This sounds adorable. I am very sick of mean girl stories but I will still sometimes read them. I don't mind a "generic teen" personality. I definitely was a generic teen and it's nice to read about people like me.

    1. Yup, the generic teen character is so easy to relate to that I don't see it as a problem.

  2. Sounds cute! I haven't read something like this before where a bully victim takes revenge :) Thanks for the review!

    1. You're welcome! I thought it was an original spin on the mean girl idea. :)

  3. You make me feel like I gave up on this book too fast,
    I tried to read it but I guess I didn't connect with Olivia soon enough and ended up passing on the book.

    I think I'm going to try to dig it up and give it another try.

    1. I hope you like it more on round two. How far along did you get?

  4. I think I will love this. I've been meaning to read more MG, too. This sounds adorable!

  5. I had enough of the mean girl stories too, but if you're willing to give this one a shot and gave it a 4 then I'm willing to try it too.

    1. I liked it because of the different spin with the dog training. The framework is basic, but the training made it just different enough to be engaging.

  6. Uh oh, dog training techniques?! Hah. I have a complicated relationship with YA contemps (why NOT have a vampire, I ask you?) but every once in awhile you get a really good one. Or at least a really fun one, which is a nice break between all those shifter rules and stuff you have to learn in PNR.

    This one sounds pretty cute, I'll have to add it to my list. Especially since the "if you like this, you'll like" points towards BABE IN BOYLAND, which I liked a lot! Nicely reviewed. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I have a complicated relationship with YA contemps too. They very rarely do it for me.


    2. Haha! I am right there with you on the paranormals. I usually want someone fantastical in my books, but every rare once in a while I like a light and fun contemp.

      I LOVED Babe in Boyland! I laughed so hard at the closet and basketball scenes. I don't think Fetching was quite as funny, but it was fun. I hope you enjoy it! :)

  7. I looked at this cover when I clicked over and couldn't make heads or tails of it.(no pun intended) Took me a couple of minutes to realize I was looking at a dog! This sounds like a cute story and I am ALWAYS up for a good laugh. This one will definitely go on my TBR list. As always great review Small! Wondering though, have you used any of those dog training techniques at home????

    Heather :)

    1. hehe the whole book is covered in dogs. There are cute dog silhouettes on every chapter heading and the back of the book has all the school cliques separated out by dog breed. It's very cute.

      I may have used a few techniques :) But I'm not the only psych major in the house, so he sees right through me sometimes!

  8. Huh, I'd probably never have given this one a second look if you hadn't just reviewed it, Small. The concept of applying dog training techniques to mean girls sounds interesting. I wonder how that would work out in real life.

    1. With your background, I think you'll appreciate the psychology aspects. :) The way she wrote it makes it seem pretty plausible in real life.

  9. This sounds fun. My friend's a behaviorist...fascinating stuff.

  10. This one sounds like a really cute MG novel. Sounds like something I would like! Great review and I'm a new follower :)

    Confessions of a Readaholic

    1. Thank you for following! I hope you enjoy your time here :) I hope you enjoy Fetching!

  11. Contemporary MG is really something that I have not yet tapped into. But both contemporary and MG are genres that I feel I don't read enough of and would like to read more. I kind of love that you can see this one as a Disney Channel movie and that you were able to relate to the experiences (cute personal story btw!).

  12. LOL, this one sounds like fun! I hadn't heard about the horrors of school-provided pants before, but now that I have I'm thankful I never had to wear any. They don't sound pleasant!

    Just curious - was the mother's condition discussed in any detail? Or was it all very vague?


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