book cover for Call the Shots by Don Calame

Magan: Call the Shots by Don Calame

book cover for Call the Shots by Don CalameCall the Shots by Don Calame
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: making a horror film, pregnant mom with teenagers, inferior male
Format read: ARC from NetGalley

Summary: Sean’s mom announces she’s pregnant and thus begins the chaotic journey of Sean, Matt, and Coop making a horror film to win a contest.


Sean’s friend Coop is a “big idea” kind of guy. Usually his ideas cause more trouble than they do good. When Sean finds out his mom is expecting another baby and he’s going to be forced to share a room with his twin sister, Cathy, (that he doesn’t get along with), he thinks Coop’s idea could be his only solution. What is Coop’s idea? To make a movie, though he’s never made one before, and enter it into a Horror Film Contest. Coop, Matt, and Sean agree that if they win the competition, the money will be used to add an expansion onto Sean’s family’s house.

When it came to making the movie, Sean was easily persuaded and got caught up in the drama without intentionally doing so. He had a hard time standing up for himself when his new girlfriend, Evelyn, finagled her way into the film and dominated his life. He was the ultimate people pleaser and despite knowing that Evelyn was a terrible actress and his theater friend, Leyna, would be more suited for the part, he didn’t take a stand. He chose to avoid conflict. If I could write a paragraph about high-school-me, it would look much like that above, which is probably why I often felt so frustrated with him. Have you ever wished you could transfer the life lessons you’ve learned to a character?

I wanted, immediately, to tell Sean to run from Evelyn. She was crazy and bipolar and had a threatening brother I didn’t trust for a second. He never even asked her to be his girlfriend, but he also never told her they weren’t dating. He let life tackle him again and again. Evelyn wasn’t the only person who wanted her moment to shine in the movie, and Sean, since he was the casting director and screen writer, dealt with the brunt of the demands. He was the epitome of a Jim Carrey “Yes Man,” but it bulldozed and sucked the life out of him. He said yes to requests that conflicted with each other and somehow still tried to make things work.

While I haven’t read the other two books in the Swim the Fly series, I don’t think it was necessary. I may have appreciated Coop, who sometimes seemed too overenthusiastic and used “dawg” a bit too much for my liking, a bit more if I’d read Beat the Band which was told from his perspective. Matt, the third best friend, was a pretty one-dimensional character for me; he was present and had a few funny moments, but he wasn’t a stand-out character. Even though Evelyn was a huge turn-off for me, I did find myself enjoying the second half of the novel more as things became chaotic and Sean had no choice but to man up.

Often I find myself idealizing the incredible boys that are written in young adult books; Calame was pretty spot with how he depicted high school boys — they’re not always so mature, don’t make the best decisions, and endlessly make masturbation references and jokes. I commend Calame for his authenticity, but did find myself wishing for a bit more growth and maturity that would help me relate to the boys – that would have made 16-year-old me find them attractive and dateable.

If you love male POV books and are intrigued by the idea of three boys making a horror film gone bad, then Call the Shots would be right up your alley!

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