Friday, April 2, 2010

So Punk Rock (And Other ways to Disappoint Your Mother) -- Micol Ostow, with art by David Ostow

Ari Abramson has a dream. And that dream is to be a rock star.

Now all he needs is a band with the ability to play some songs. And fans. (One fan in particular, really. When Sari Horowitz signs on to IM, Ari suffers fourteen heart attacks and multiple mental meltdowns just THINKING about how to begin a conversation with her.) Oh, and he needs for his parents not to find out -- they want him to focus on getting early admission to Brandeis. Where -- even if he wanted to think about college right now (which he doesn't, as it's two years away) -- he doesn't want to go.

But the band actually comes together, and with Jonas (activities: basketball, being a bad-a** pimp), Yossi (activities: study of rabbinical interpretations of scripture), and an uninvited-yet-turns-out-to-be-awesome back-up singer, Ari forms The Tribe. And they enjoy surprisingly quick rise to stardom -- especially at Leo R. Gittleman Jewish Day School.

That's when egos begin to get inflated. And the romance he's been dreaming of... doesn't go exactly the way he'd planned. And while his dream has technically been fulfilled, he is faced with more problems than he had when he was just dreaming.

Like The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian, So Punk Rock is a hybrid of a novel, bringing prose and illustration together to tell a story -- the illustrations and short comics don't just enhance the storyline, they are integral to the telling of it. The book trailer uses some of them:

While the writing and the illustrations were equally strong -- David Ostow's footnotes and his "Glossary of Jewish, Musical and Otherwise Esoteric Terms" were especially hilarious -- there were some really excellent touches in Micol Ostow's prose. I loved how Jonas' constant swearing was bleeped out, but then, when an f-bomb was completely understandable and truly necessary, it was actually spelled out -- in that instance, it carried so much more weight. I also loved how she played with words, how Ari used 'obvious' and 'brat' as verbs. Like this:

"It's new," Yossi duhs. Except he doesn't mean it as a duh. He means it sincerely. Yossi means everything sincerely. It's a problem.

It's not a fast-paced action-packed thrill ride -- it's a story about figuring out who you are, what you want to do with your future, and how to go about making that happen. And about what happens when friendships are brought to the breaking point. It's funny and smart, the secondary characters are so well-developed that they could easily have stepped up to the forefront, and the relationships feel right and true. The setting in and around a conservative Jewish high school in an affluent New Jersey suburb was a really nice change from what I've been reading lately, and it's one that doesn't seem to appear all that often in the YA.

Recommended for music lovers, for those who are still struggling to figure out what they want, for those who have parents who Know What's Best, for anyone who's daydreamed about making their daydream a reality.


Another review of So Punk Rock at GLW.

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