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Stupid and Contagious    by Caprice Crane order for
Stupid and Contagious
by Caprice Crane
Order:  USA  Can
5 Spot, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

Caprice Crane's parents are actress Tina Louise and talk show host Les Crane. Her book's title, taken from one of grunge band Nirvana's most famous songs, Smells like Teen Spirit, is appropriate, as the reader eventually discovers. The story is narrated by a 26-year old former PR marketing executive named Heaven, and also by her next door neighbor Brady, a 29-year old Indie record producer still struggling to make it big. The two don't hit it off at first sight - it's pretty much a hate-hate relationship for a good part of the book.

The story starts with the two in totally different places. Brady is on a plane, on his way to a music festival, while Heaven tells us that her husband is cheating on her. A few paragraphs later she admits this is not really happening, and that she is merely engaged and will be married in eighteen months. Then, further into the chapter, she again admits this is not totally true. She is not engaged, but she merely plans on being married in eighteen months, when she'll be twenty-seven years old, the magic age when musical icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and even Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana) all died. If she isn't married by then, her theory goes, she will be dead.

Brady and Heaven meet when they become neighbors in their apartment complex, where Heaven has gotten into the bad habit of stealing Brady's mail. Since it's been mistakenly put into her box, she deems it her right to open and read it. She is slowly prying into his personal life, getting to learn about things such as his ex-girlfriend Sarah's desire to get back with him, which annoys Brady. And that's an understatement. Their relationship takes a turn when one day Sarah shows up and Heaven, out of the goodness of her heart, walks into Brady's apartment and pretends to be his latest fling, making Sarah jealous and showing that Brady had indeed moved on. After that, Brady sees her in a different light.

Meanwhile, Brady dreams both of signing an up and coming band that will put his record company on the map, and of inventing something really awesome. His latest idea is cinnamilk, which he believes will make him very rich. His new goal is to meet the president of Starbucks, to introduce him to what cinnamilk could do for coffee, as well as get that recording act to sign with his label. Brady thinks he's found that special band that will make him famous, and decides to travel to Seattle. Heaven, just fired from her job as a waitress (the job from hell), invites herself to go along. It's not what Brady wanted, but he canít say no to her. So, the two travel to the West Coast, an eye opening experience for both of them.

I loved the humor (the dialog often had me laughing out loud) and the writing style of this cleverly written debut by a music-savvy writer (no surprise, as Crane admits to owning a few million CDs, literally). Her book was a joy to read. Music plays a big part in the story, as Brady's life dream revolves around it, almost to the point where he judges people by the music they listen to. I loved the way the duo's relationship evolved from annoying next door neighbors to reluctant friends, and finally to two people who realize they are falling in love. Stupid and Contagious is a great debut - I hope Caprice Crane writes more such entertaining novels.

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