Maria was born in New York City, but she hasn’t been back since her parents split and she ended up living with her dad in Georgia. Her family has always warned her that her mom Victoria, a free spirited artist living in Greenwich Village, is not exactly parent material. But now that she’s practically an adult, Maria is ready to find out for herself, and convinces her grandmother and dad to let her live with her mom and go to school in NYC for her junior year. Armed with the Supergirl Mixtapes of bad ass female singers that her best friend Dory made for her, Maria feels prepared to take on the creativity and chaos of New York and her downtown artist mom. Except that from the minute she sets foot in the Big Apple, Maria is beset with problems. First of all, she hates her new school, where mean girls quickly label her a Southern hick. Then there’s the issue of her mother’s live-in boyfriend Travis, who’s hot, rides a motorcycle, and is only six years older than Maria. Finally there’s unreliable Victoria herself, who is constantly racing off to rock shows with her friends and acts and dresses like she’s still sixteen years old. What makes matters worse is when Maria finds a baggie of suspicious white powder in her mom’s bathroom. Who do the drugs belong to? Maria begins to wonder if she can trust her mom to tell her the truth. Will Maria end up back in Georgia listening to her dad say, “I told you so” after all? Or will she find it in herself to conquer the city that never sleeps while forcing her mom to act like a grown-up? This heartfelt novel is a bit of a love note to a New York of not-so-long-ago, one where you could still catch a show at CBGBs, or look up and figure out where you were by your proximity to the World Trade Towers. Meagan Brothers does a lovely job of capturing that moment in time by referencing bands and artists from both the 90’s and New York’s historically rich downtown music scene. The music of Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell all flow through the pages of Brothers’ novel, and will no doubt have you pulling up Pandora or Spotify to take a listen as you read. And can we agree this is the Best. Cover. Ever? Enjoy–
It’s been three years since the car accident that changed Mia and Adam’s lives forever. Mia lost her entire family and nearly died herself. Adam stayed devotedly by her side during her recovery. As soon as she was well enough, Mia went to Julliard in New York while Adam stayed in Oregon to finish school and play with his band, Shooting Star. They were committed to making their long distance relationship work. Then, without warning, Mia cut off all communication with Adam. Stunned, Adam sank into a deep depression that resulted in the creation of his band’s breakout record. Now Adam is a reluctant rock star and Mia is an accomplished professional cellist. But Adam still thinks about Mia everyday, and by chance, attends one of her concerts in New York on his way to a tour in London. What happens next brings to mind one of my favorite movies, Before Sunrise, as Adam and Mia finally meet again and spend a memorable night walking around New York, catching up and reminiscing. But does Adam have the courage to confront Mia about why she left him? And is he strong enough to handle her answer? “I’ve blamed her for all of this, for leaving, for ruining me. And maybe that was the seed of it, but from that one little seed grew this tumor of a flowering plant. And I’m the one who nurtures it. I water it. I care for it. I nibble from its poison berries. I let it wrap around my neck, choking the air right out of me. I’ve done that. All by myself. All to myself.” This incredibly satisfying sequel to If I Stay is written from Adam’s POV, and is just as full of longing, heartbreak and gorgeous writing as its predecessor. I flew through it in a single day, dying to see what Mia’s mysterious reasons were and hoping against hope that the two star crossed lovers would get back together. Do they? Well, you better race to your nearest library or bookstore, or grab your Kindle, iPad, or Nook to find out! (And dudes, please don’t mind the gorgeous girl on the cover, this book IS written from a guy’s POV, even if it doesn’t look like it.)
Retta Lee Jones has a dream to become a famous country singer like Dolly Parton or Patsy Cline. She’s just been marking time in high school, waiting tables at Bluebell’s Diner and longing for the moment when she can leave her small town forever and head for the bright lights of Nashville. A few weeks after graduation, in her great-aunt Goggy’s aged Caprice Classic and with just $500 in her jeans pocket, Retta takes off, hoping that talent, drive and determination will be enough to make her dreams come true. But if you’ve ever listened to any country music, you know that’s about as likely as cat getting out of a room full of rocking chairs with it’s tail intact. First she gets in a car accident. Then she gets mugged, losing the rest of her small savings. Soon she’s sleeping in the back seat of the Caprice and bathing homeless style in public restroom sinks. Retta manages to score a singing gig in a local dive outside Nashville, but the cheap owner rarely remembers to pay her, while the audience is pretty small and mostly made up of senior citizens. It seems like every bad thing that ever happened in a country song is happening to Retta–until she snares a spot singing at open-mike night at the Mockingbird Café, a famous Nashville club where lots of singers have been discovered. But just as things are looking up, Retta gets a devastating phone call. Her family is in crisis, and they need her to come home. Will this songbird ever be given the opportunity to fly? Or will her wings be clipped by unfortunate circumstances and bad luck? It’s so refreshing to read a book about a topic that’s hasn’t been rehashed about six thousand times already in YA Lit. Supplee’s chapter headings are famous country music songs that form a playlist for Retta’s journey, along with brief bios of the singers themselves. I loved learning quick facts about country stars from Patty Loveless to Keith Urban and everyone in between. Retta’s determination not to give up in the face of terrible odds is sincere and hopeful without being sappy. While country music may not be your thang, this is one novel that’s long on lit. and short on twang 🙂 (I know, I know. You’re good to bear with me.)
Sixteen-year-old Brit Laura Brown just wants to rock out with her punk band, the dirty angels. Unfortunately, the environment keeps getting in the way. Due to the violent global warming storms that keep ravaging greater Europe, the England of the near future has decided to lead the way to a greener planet by being the first country to try “carbon rationing.” Everyone is issued their own “carbon card,” a credit card that monitors how much CO2 your personal lifestyle is unleashing on the atmosphere. Pretty much anything that uses electricity or gas causes the emission of carbon dioxide, so suddenly everyone is shivering and walking instead of turning up the thermostat or hopping in the car to run to the store. Laura’s family takes the new rationing especially hard: selfish sis Kim uses up all her points immediately then locks herself in room and refuses to come out, Mom joins a wacky women’s collective that believes in the power of positive thinking, and Dad falls into a drunken downward spiral after being laid off. Laura’s had it with all of them, and is too busy stalking her hot but aloof next door neighbor Ravi to get involved in their personal dramas. But it soon becomes clear that if they don’t learn to pull together, they’ll be torn apart by the blackouts, looting and fuel shortages that are devastating London as a result of the rationing. Like the sassy British cousin of my favorite eco-thriller, Laura’s in-your-face diary describes what it’s like to be a teen at the end of the world as you know it and still feel fine. In spite of the chaos and craziness that surrounds her, Laura still manages to rage, rock, fall in love and keep her head when everyone around her is losing theirs. A timely first novel that unfortunately feels all too real.
Johnny is a black-nail-polish-and-eyeliner-wearing recovering alcoholic who loves The Cure, The Ramones, and, ever since rehab, Blondie. Maria is a Goth-girl-on-the-rocks who dances by herself to Nico, The Clash, and Patti Smith. Neither one thinks anyone will ever love them, until they pogo into each other in a mosh pit at a local all-ages club. It’s Love and Rockets at first sight, except for the troubling fact that Maria initially thought Johnny was gay. Why? Just because he likes to Robert-Smith-it up a little? Johnny knows he’s not gay, or he wouldn’t dig Maria so much. But what do you call it when you like girls, but you secretly want to try on that little white dress from the thrift store that looks exactly like the one Debbie Harry wears on the cover of Parallel Lines? This hip work by newbie author Meagan Brothers encourages readers to explore the meanings of all the shades of gray that exist between gay and straight. Johnny and Maria’s romance is realistic, sweet, and quite unlike any other I’ve read about in teen books. After all, how many girlfriends would encourage their boyfriends to enter a drag contest? If you like Freak Show by James St. James or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, you’re gonna love DHSF.
Katy is so safe, so closed up and locked down, that when punk Goth-girl Lake meets her for the first time, she dubs Katy “Beige.” But how else is Katy supposed to act? As the product of a punk-rock love affair between Rat, the recovering drug addict-drummer of the infamous band Suck, and her mom, a reformed groupie who is now a buttoned up archeologist, Katy is terrified to let her true self out in case she ends up repeating her parents’ mistakes. So she smiles sweetly and does what she’s told, even when her mom tells her she’s going on an archelogical dig to Peru, which means Katy’s gonna have to spend the whole summer with her dad, who she barely knows. Talk about SUCK! Now Katy’s steady-eddie temperament is being sorely tested by her chatty, tattooed dad, who never seems to know when to shut up, his loud music, and his best friend’s teenage daughter Lake, who’s been bribed into hanging out with Katy. As I said before, Lake thinks Katy’s beige. Will Katy be able to prove that underneath her unruffled manner she’s really fuchsia? This rockin’ read from Plain Jane Cecil Castellucci is all about not being afraid to show your true colors. And even though it’s a book, it’s got a sweet soundtrack—just download the song titles that start each chapter to get an audio idea of Katy’s state of mind as she moves from beige to brilliant! Want more Cecil? The check out her other anti-chick-lit, Boy Proof.
Welcome to Portland, the “other Seattle.” Meet Andrea Marr, a chick on the edge of the early 90’s alternative atmosphere. Throughout her four years of high school, Andrea moves from big-haired mall GIRL to cynical-grunge Girl and what a trip it is! Falling in and out of love with all the wrong guys, she learns where she fits in her world, and that maybe it’s better to be on your own than with a loser. You’ll be sure to recognize yourself and most of your friends in this exuberant introduction to the alternative-rock scene. This was the first Blake Nelson novel I ever read, and I’ve been in love ever since. Make sure and check out some of his other books on RR: Paranoid Park, Prom Anonymous and Rock Star, Superstar.
Nick’s a straight bass player in a queer core band, sometimes called The F*offs, sometimes called Porn Yesterday, and occasionally None of Your Business. He’s trying to forget Tris, his ex-private school girlfriend who goes through nice boys like Kleenex. Norah is an indie-band spotter, a smart, flannel-clad straight-edger who prefers that no one know her father is a very famous record executive. She’s trying to forget Tal, a pretentious eco-warrior who never thought she was good enough for him. They meet in a dark club, share a serious kiss under bizarre circumstances (don’t ask) and head off into the Manhattan night to see if they can make their straight edges overlap. Nick and Norah will share one wild night that could amount to nothing or lead to forever. This novel is so hot it’s cool, penned in alternating chapters by hipster authors Rachel (Gingerbread) and David (Boy Meets Boy). Strictly for the PG-13 crowd, (note to readers: you’ll never look at a soda machine quite the same again) this out loud and proud tribute to sweaty punk music and raging teenage hormones will leave you head thrashing for more! And please make sure you see the a-mah-zing movie version starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings which, while not entirely true to the text, is still about six kinds of awesome!
Leo Caraway is a straight-A, (as in grades) Type A, (as in hyper-organized) kind of guy, so his Young Republican world is completely rocked when he accidently discovers that his biological dad is none other than King Maggot, the lead singer of the famous punk band Purge. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Leo has just lost his financial ride to Harvard, and is looking for a way to score some hard cash for school. It occurs to him that his newly discovered millionaire dad might be willing to part with some change if Leo can get close enough to give King’s heart (and purse) strings a little tug. So that’s how Leo finds himself spending his summer vacation on the road with Purge, slinging speakers and moving microphone stands, while trying to show King Maggot a little father/son love. But just when Leo is about to hit up King for his tuition, the paternity test results that King ordered at the beginning of the summer come back and both Leo and King are in for another big surprise. Hilarious, and sporting a fabulous cover, Born to Rock is a great story about family, punk music, and discovering your true, bad ass self.
Sam may not be in a band, but what he knows about heavy metal could fill an encyclopedia. Sam lives for Slayer concerts, hanging with his best friends, and getting drunk on Saturday night. That’s why no one is more surprised than he is when he falls for preppy, straight arrow Melissa, who not only has never heard of any of Sam’s favorite bands, but after a disastrous experience in a mosh pit, wants him to give up metal, his best friends, AND drinking. While Sam may be willing to sacrifice his friends and stay dry for a few weekends, giving up his metal is out of the question. Can this relationship be saved? Does Sam even want to? Newbie author Christopher Krovatin was born in 1985, which makes this Gen-X reviewer feel a little old. But Krovatin’s spot on dialogue and no-holds-barred look at the inner life of an enthusiastic metal head gave me a real appreciation for a type of music I bypassed altogether as a teen. A little raunchy and a lot honest, this short, funny novel will leave you wondering how far you would go for love.
Anooshka Stargirl may have an unusual name, but every day of her life is depressingly the same. Her cool older sister Moon recently moved to New York City, leaving Anooska to care for their manic depressive mom, who acts more like a child than a parent. When she wants to escape her mom’s suffocating hold, she hangs out with her best friends Raphael and Agnes or her beloved parakeet Zack, and dreams of escaping to New York like her sister. Then, one summer weekend while she is visiting Moon, they meet Orpheus, pretty boy alterna-rocker of the moment, equal parts Beck and Bright Eyes. Anooshka is smitten, and instantly becomes an Orpheus groupie, obsessively reading his blog, attending his concerts, and eventually ending up in his bed. But what is true love for Anooska may just be another notch in the bedpost for Orpheus. Or has the groupie with a heart of gold really softened the cynicism of this elusive rock star? Dakota Lane keeps you guessing about the nature of this Francesca Lia Block-flavored rock and roll relationship ’til the bitter end, and gives real insight into the intoxicating power of music and how it can play with our emotions.
Troy is fat. Not just a little chubby, but nearly 300 pounds of grade A blubber. In fact, he is so fat and so miserable that he contemplates throwing himself off of a NYC subway platform just to end it all. That is when he meets his grunge guardian angel, Curt McCrae. Curt is a local legend around Troy’s school, as he fronts an awesome downtown punk band. Despite being a high school dropout, Curt is a phenomenal guitarist and decides that Troy’s fate is not to be squished flat on the tracks, but instead to be his band’s new drummer. Together, the two forge an unlikely friendship in the dark and smoky world of New York’s punk scene. Making a commitment to help each other fight their addictions (Troy’s to food, and Curt’s to drugs) these two anti-heroes just might make it. Funny, sad, and sometimes, really gross, (Troy re-visits all too often in his first person narrative two particularly yucky body functions: sweat and puke) Fat Kid is ready to rule your world and your heart from page one.
High school junior Pete has always been a straight arrow. He’s a smokin’ bass player, but he likes the notes to stay on the page, and no improvising, please. Pete believes that control and precision are what define “good” music. Until he joins up with the Carlisle brothers and their band, The Tiny Masters of Today. Billy Carlisle is a complete improvised terror on the mic, and he and Pete are constantly at each other’s throats. But somehow, someway, the music they make is amazing, even if it never is quite the same song twice. As their local reputation grows, the guys find themselves being hailed as bona fide rock stars, complete with hot girl groupies and record deals in the making. But can Pete handle school, his growing relationship with his quirky girlfriend, Margaret, and being in one of the coolest garage bands in Portland? This book is not for you if you loved Rachel Cohn’s Pop Princess, or Meg Cabot’s Teen Idol, or are glued to the TV set when Simon Cowell speaks. This book is for those who dig bands like The White Stripes, Pearl Jam, Nirvana or even the old school G & R (before Axl got all Botoxed) and wonder what it was like for those guys when they were first getting started. I have a feeling that it was a little like this perfect gem of a book. All music aside, this is also one of the finest books I’ve ever read about the development of a romantic teen relationship (between Pete and Margaret) that depicts it like it really is. This book rocks, HARD!
It would be bad enough having to see your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend everyday at school or work. But what if you were in a band with your ex? And you were getting too successful to leave it, even though it was starting to drive you crazy seeing him or her all the time? That’s the story, morning glory, behind Pagan Kennedy’s band book The Exes. Walt is still crushing on Shaz, Shaz is pretty sure she’s into girls, and Hank and Lilly are trying to find a way to still get their fix off each other without Lilly’s boyfriend Dieter finding out. Can the four of them deal with all the behind-the-scenes emotions AND rock Boston? The ending may leave you to draw your own conclusions about where this indie group is going to end up, but as usual, Pagan Kennedy, with her wide knowledge of pop culture, does not disappoint.
Cherokee sings and plays the tambourine. Witch Baby is on the drums. Raphael is lead guitar and Angel Juan keeps time on the bass. Together, they are the Goat Guys, and their band is just as mystical and magical as you would expect any creation of Francesca Lia Block’s to be. The trouble starts when Raphael gets serious stage fright and can’t keep it together for their first public performance. So, Cherokee goes to Coyote and gets a pair of magic goat pants that makes Raphael’s stage fright disappear. But with his new found confidence, Raphael starts buggin’ out on a power trip and even though the band is doing great, Cherokee is worried that they may start destroying themselves from within. Can she get Coyote to take back the power before it’s too late? A short and completely fantastical band book that pushes the bounds of reality.