Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rock On by Denise Vega

Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order) by Denise Vega lives up to its title. Here's why.

Ori has a band. A band without a name.

Ori has an older brother named Del. The boys were very close until Del went away to college, only to return home unexpectedly, with a chip on his shoulder.

Ori has a guitar. It's a loaner. He's working at a music store and saving up for a sweet Les Paul.

Ori has friends. Good ones. And together, they make good music.

What Ori doesn't have - yet - is the confidence that he needs to lead the group, and to walk out of his brother's shadow and forge his own path. But maybe, if he lets out the music that's in his head, his heart, and his fingertips, he'll get there.

You've got to love a lead vocalist and songwriter who is searching for the right things to say and the right notes to play. Ori's just that. I think he'd get along well with Nick from Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

I really enjoyed the scenes with Ori's friends. The group's dynamics are great. When they get together, whether it's to make music or just to hang out, they are comfortable with one another. They are solid friends, and their dialogue sounds authentic. None of the main characters are profane or inane, and every person in the group is important to that group. No one in the band tries to be the star or upstage anyone else; each member is good at what they do, and they just want to play music. They are getting their feet wet by performing at local venues and preparing for a Battle of the Bands competition for high school groups. All the while, Ori has to deal with his unpredictable older brother.

Ori used to look up to Del, but now Del seems to be looking down on him. Though Del was popular and cool, he always looked out for his kid brother and included him in things. During the short time he was away at college, something changed. Now, Ori sometimes sees a flicker of the brother he used to know, but most of the time, it's like Del's a complete stranger. He used to be supportive of Ori's efforts; he's now critical. He used to smile and joke around with Ori; now he's cold, if not rude. He's also messing up Ori's potential relationship with a girl. The brothers' feud builds throughout the book and boils over realistically.

The band is in need of a bass guitarist for the first quarter of the book. If you want to know more about the newest member of the band, if you'd like to find out what RSB stands for, and if you want to know other reasons why this book rocks, click here to read my full-length review at my blog, Bildungsroman.

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