Rock Star, Superstar by Blake Nelson and Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

First of all, let me admit that I’m a sucker for the “high-school-kid-in-a-local-band-scene-almost-makes-it-big-and-learns-a-little-something-about-himself/herself-in-the-process” novel.  Both of these young adult stories – one American and one British, one about a teen boy and one about a teen girl – fit that description.

Rock_star Rock Star, Superstar by Blake Nelson tells the jazz band to rock band story of 16 year old Pete from Portland, Oregon, a talented bass player with a rock solid [pun intended] knowledge of quality music.  After all, his dad’s been in one band after another since way before Pete was born.  And his mom would have been a famous folk singer if she hadn’t died so young.  His keen sense of musical appreciation makes him unsure about joining his best friend’s new alternative rock band, Tiny Masters of Today, which has a sound like nothing he’s ever heard before.  On stage, however, playing bass lines that he improvises under the bright lights, Pete feels the magic…and so does the audience.  Suddenly college radio stations have their single on rotation and guys in suits are setting up showcases to consider them for a record deal.  Along the way, Pete gets his first girlfriend, loses his virginity, loses his first girlfriend and learns about life, loyalty, friendship and himself.  The author does a fantastic job of communicating the rush and excitement of being an insider in a local music scene, and the amazing bonding power of a shared interest and love of music.

Guitar_girl Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning plots the sometimes sweet and sometimes sketchy story of three suburban girls who live largely unnoticed in their school – until, that is, they form an all-girl rock band called the Hormones.  Writing songs about Hello Kitty and boys, Molly Montgomery enjoys the rush of the ride as two older boys join the band and it takes off.  One British and American tour later, however, Molly barely recognizes herself or her friends as the pressures of concerts, drug use and grown up relationships take their toll on their teenage selves.  Guitar Girl shows life on the road in a famous band isn’t all about pink guitars and hotel parties, and Molly’s final message to readers is that it’s never too late to be yourself.      

The Young Adult Library Services Association chose both of these titles for its annual “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” list.                                                                                              
(Brandon Bensley, Children’s Department)
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