Monday, March 29, 2010

Flash Burnout

I just got back from Berkeley, CA, where I visited Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue. I was delighted to be able to envision Allie (The Vinyl Princess) behind the counter talking up vinyl records with customers. The vinyl record library there is phenomenal.
My latest recommendation is Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan about Blake, a boy who struggles to balance his relationships with Shannon, his girlfirend, and Marissa, a fellow photographer who is a friend who is a girl. Although the story involves more about photography and struggling with a parent's addiction than music, I couldn't resist mentioning it in my soundtrack unit because the end of the book includes two broken heart playlists with Blake's commentary. One is a mad/sad playlist and the other is a sad/sad playlist including songs like "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down that he characterizes as an "I haven't moved on" song and Hemorrhage by Fuel of which he says, "Anytime you mention blood and love in the same sentence, it's not going to have a happy ending." Another terrific element of the book is his "pleas to Houston" (as in Houston we have a problem) for relationship advice. I would highly recommend spending some time with Blake and his problems.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Struts and Frets

The playlist at the end of John Skovron's Struts and Frets, which identifies the songs in the book, includes an eclectic variety of music from the Pixies to John Coltrane. All are referenced by Sammy Bojar, the main character, who defines himself through his music. Sammy's grandfather, a jazz musician whose mind is clouded by dementia, encourages him to follow his dream of becoming a rock star. However, his mother, who watched her own mother die of a drug overdose, urges him to pursue a more stable lifestyle.
When Sammy's band decides to compete in a battle of the bands, Sammy waffles between excitement at winning a chance to record in a studio and dread of the band imploding in public. The lead singer can't remember the lyrics, the bassist is not ready for prime time and Sammy has a serious case of stage fright.
Added to his anxieties about the band, Sammy worries about his relationship with his art obsessed best friend Jen5 (there are 5 other Jennifers in their class), who wants to take their relationship to the next level. As they explore romance, she agrees to help him be more of a "kick-ass combat ninja" and he encourages her to show her vulnerable side. At her urging, he agrees to perform solo at her first art show, and totally loses himself in performing a song he wrote for her. The battle of the bands doesn't turn out quite the way he had hoped, but it definitely is a turning point in his music career. This fresh coming-of-age story not only includes recognizable music, but also Sammy's orginal songs and an inside look at what it's like to write and perform them. It's a great read that will appeal to a wide audience.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Speaking of Soundtracks

Speaking of soundtracks, I have been enjoying the playlist Maggie Stiefvater created for her book Shiver. It is very Twilightesque. If you have not read Shiver yet, I would highly recommend it. The first book of a trilogy introduces Grace who for years has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her from its pack when she was attacked as a child. Sam, who was bitten by a werewolf as a boy, is that wolf. He spends the summer months as a human and the cold months of the year as a wolf. When they finally meet, they fall deeply in love, but their romance is threatened by many challenges, including the fact that Sam may soon lose the ability to become human. The author's take on werewolves is interesting and original, and Sam and Grace cleverly handle the ordeals they face. I can wait for Linger, the sequel which is due out July 10, 2010.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Welcome to my blog spot! I am looking forward to blogging about new young adult novels. I have written a book, What's New in Young Adult Novels? and Ideas for Classroom Use and am continually reading new YA novels in hopes of finding gems to add to my next revision. The 2009 book is available on

One of the units in my book is entitled Stories with a Soundtrack. I am always looking for new books that will lend themselves to exploration of the music referenced in them. Last year's Audrey Wait! was really popular with teens and I had a ball listening to all the songs that Robin Benway used in her chapter titles. The songs that book characters listen to really define them as individuals and help the readers get a clearer picture of the characters.

Yesterday I read The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Printz. I absolutely loved it! Allie, the main character, works at Bob and Bob's Records, a vinyl record store in Berkeley, CA. My oldest son just started business school at Berkeley, and having helped him move there this summer, I am somewhat familiar with the setting. I envisioned Bob and Bob's Records on Telegraph Avenue and all the hippies that populate the area. The music that permeates the story is classic and I began making a playlist in my head as I read about Allie's adventures.

If you have any thoughts on either of these books or have books to recommend, I'd love to hear from you.