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YA, Contemporary, 304 pages, Henry Holt & Co.
- Series: Stand-alone.
- Why I read it: Because this girl wishes she could hack it, too.
- Disclosure: Received ARC from The Red Balloon Bookstore. Thanks!
When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . .The Long...
In this fresh new novel by critically acclaimed author Tara Kelly, Jasmine finds out what happens when her life gets Amplified.
When I reviewed Tara Kelly's debut, Harmonic Feedback, back in September, I noted its bravery, its heart, and, of course, its music. Its beloved and lovely Manic Pixie Dream Girls (and Boys). Its street cred. I also noted its unfortunate earnestness and clumsy debut tone; wrinkles that I was sure would be ironed out in Kelly's sophomore release, Amplified.
And were they. Oh, ever were they. In Amplified, Kelly brings us a spunky, brash, and wonderful YA whose author has wised up as much as her characters, and which will retain its beloved place on my wannabe riot grrrl bookshelf pretty much forever.
It wasn't until I read Harmonic Feedback that I began to notice what a dearth of teen girl musicians there were in YA. Sure, every guy love interest and his uncle plays an instrument (often guitar) and usually has a husky, sex-on-a-stick singing voice, too (see: Shiver, The Sky is Everywhere, Everneath), and that's great. Guy musicians are sexy. But where are the future Amanda Palmers, the Chrissie Hyndes, the Kim Gordons, and, for better or worse, the Courtney Loves? Where are the girls who have musical talent beyond just an angelic choir voice? Where are the girls with grit and fire, who can bring it just as well as any guy?
Answer: in Amplified, of course. From fabulous, gritty-voiced out-and-proud lesbian Veta, to enigmatic local celebrity Zia, to our heroine, curvy, naive, angry, desperate-to-prove herself Jasmine, the musically talented gals fairly fly off the page here. Everything about the Santa Cruz music scene crackles with energy and exuberance, and it made me want to pick up my poor battered keyboard all over again.
I could complain that the writing still stumbles, that the ending dragged on a little too long, that a few characters fell just a hair into trope territory. But frankly, they're inconsequential complaints when a writer is forging into such new and awesome territory in YA. Bravo, Tara Kelly, for giving us a heroine who hacks it just as well as her boyfriend, for whom music is a matter of exchange and not just vapid enjoyment. Bravo.
...and the Short:
Spunky, sassy, brash, and wonderful, Tara Kelly's electric sophomore novel is sure to appeal to those charmed by Harmonic Feedback and win her legions of well-deserved new fans. Music-lovers won't want to miss it!
The Final Word: Loved it!
Amplified is available now!