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.