Noel, Alyson. Five Days of Famous
December 13th 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Copy Provided by Young Adult Books Central
Nick Dashaway is a self-described brainiac who hangs out with his uber-geeky friends at school and fails to successfully navigate middle school, especially when it comes to his biggest crush, Tinsely. With winter break looming, he has nothing to look forward to except hanging out at the family hardware store and Christmas tree lot, dealing with his sister Holly, and wishing that he were famous like singer Josh Frost, who went to his school. When his friend Plum gives him an early birthday present and cupcake (his birthday is on Christmas and often gets overlooked), he is shocked when the bus he catches to get home drops him off in an entirely different life in a palm tree festooned area. All of his friends and family are there, but are different. His parents have little to do with his life, which is now managed by Ben Ezer, Josh Frost's manager. Holly is nice to him, Plum is completely different, and Tinsely is a singer who is going to record a song with him. Nick must work on his Christmas themed reality show, but runs afoul of people on social media and just can't figure out why he got thrust into another life. Will he be able to figure it out and return to his regularly scheduled life?
There are a lot of students who ask for books about Christmas, and there are very few out there. There have been a few recently-- Korman's Jingle (in the Swindle series), Stine's Young Scrooge, Fry's The Naughty List and two titles by Benedis-Grab, Clementine for Christmas and The Angel Tree. It's even harder to find Christmas themed books with boys as the main character, so Nick's story is one that will find eager readers.
Despite the lack of holiday festooning on the cover, this has a lot of holiday details. The names of the characters are all vaguely holiday themed-- the town is Greetree, there's a Turtledove family, and even the dog is named Dasher. Nick's reality television show is a fun touch and involves him decorating Christmas cookies with his sister.
Middle grade readers have a fascination with celebrity and often envision themselves as famous singers or television actors, so Nick's wish for a more exciting life is one that will resonate. Of course, for most readers this is not a possible goal, so Nick does eventually figure out that wile his life in Greentree isn't perfect, he prefers it.
Noel writes a lot of teen novels, and the transition from those can be very difficult. This book was clearly written for a middle grade audience, but had more hallmarks of young adult fiction-- it was slow paced and generally angst-ridden. There was a lot of referencing Nick's geeky status that seemed odd and uncharacteristic of the age group. A good first try-- for some odd reason, our students still study A Christmas Carol every year-- but I am not sure that I will purchase.