Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guitar Notes

Last week I read a manuscript for a new young adult novel, as a favor for a friend.  As I was reading the manuscript, I kept thinking about how much the book would benefit from a companion website. Coincidentally, the next book I read was Guitar Notes by Mary Amato, which has an extensive companion website that enhances the book immeasurably.

As the story begins, Tripp Broody and Lila Marks share an instrumental practice room at school by using it on alternating lunch-periods.  Lila is an accomplished cellist, and Tripp is a guitar player and burgeoning song writer.  When his mother takes away his guitar until his grades improve, Tripp borrows a school guitar and signs up for the practice room in desperation.  He immediately annoys Lila by leaving trash in the room, and she leaves him a note admonishing him. They begin a correspondence, dubbing each other Mr. Odd and Ms. Even. Although seemingly different, they develop a bond through their shared feelings of  pressure and their love for creating  music. Lila's would like a break from her cello career and a demanding best friend.  Tripp needs to play his guitar to help him forget about his father's death and the absence of his best friend, who moved away.  As they grow closer, Tripp and Lila begin writing songs together and performing surreptitiously, knowing their parents would disapprove.  Their relationship deepens slowly until a dramatic turn of events changes everything. Short,  present-tense third-person vignettes advance the plot and are complimented by text messages, emails and handwritten notes. Amato, a songwriter herself, includes convincing musical detail and provides tablature at the end of the book for all of Tripp and Lila's songs.

The companion website can be found at The author refers to "thrum" in the novel, saying, "When the vibrations of the music make your soul vibrate, you feel the thrum. It’s like you’re perfectly in tune with the song, as if you are the music and the music is you.” The website includes lyrics and chords for the nine songs, as well as recordings and karaoke versions for each.  There are behind the scenes videos about writing a novel and writing songs.  There is also a place for kids to share their own music.
More and more authors are providing companion websites for their novels. Daniel Waters' Generation Dead series and Maggie Steifvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series both have extensive web support.  Some authors provide blogs from their characters. Others provide "sound tracks" of songs inspired by their novels.  There is no end to the creative extensions for young adult novels in the 21st Century!

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