Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book review: "Guitar Notes" by Mary Amato

Title: Guitar Notes
Author: Mary Amato
Publisher: Egmont, 2012

Tripp Broody and Lyla Marks have both been assigned to Practice Room B during lunch. Tripp has the odd days, Lyla the even. Their friendship begins when Lyla writes a note asking the "Odd Day Musician" to please throw away his trash he left on the music stand. What follows is a note exchange that turns into a friendship with a guitar at the center of it.

Lyla is under enormous pressure as a classical cello player, taking after her mother, a professional player who died in a plane crash when Lyla was little. She doesn't really enjoy playing anymore, but puts on a smile and does what she's expected to do.

Tripp has had his guitar confiscated by his mother, who worries he's isolating himself and that his guitar has become his obsession. Tripp hasn't made any friends since his father died a few years ago and his best friend moved to Schenectady, and his grades have been suffering. In an effort to get back to the one thing that keeps him sane, he signs up for a practice room, provided the school can loan him a guitar, which they do but under the stipulation that it must stay in the practice room.

Both Lyla and Tripp have to deal with the loss of a parent, though they don't necessarily connect with this similarity. Lyla was very young when her mother died, so she doesn't grieve like Tripp or her father does. Instead, she is living in her mother's shadow and trying to fill her shoes, an enormous task that is almost oppressive. Because her father is so invested in Lyla's success as a cello player, she never has any room to be who she wants to be. Tripp, on the other hand, only lost his father a few years earlier after he suffers a brain aneurism. His father was the more involved of the two parents, and every year they went camping on a plot of land they owned. In fact, it was the last camping trip that led Tripp to start playing guitar, making the guitar one of the last connections he has with his father. I love that each character is affected very differently by their losses, and that they don't come together because of their loss, but instead because of their love for music.

Lyla and Tripp don't have a blossoming romance, or a fated connection. They just both need a friend who understands them and is willing to actually listen and share music. It is quite a blessing for both of them, since Tripp really doesn't have any friends and Lyla's only friend, Annie, is constantly in competition with her (she's a violinist) and never really seems to understand she needs time away from her. The duo begin to write songs together and separately, challenging themselves to become better musicians and better writers, and in the process become better friends.

The book itself is full of the notes, song lyric brainstorms, and text messages. I loved this addition. For someone who has never written a song or a poem, it's nice to see the thought process behind it. And I do love this new way to show dialogue in literature (yes, I know texting isn't that new, but it's not often that you see a whole conversation in a novel). Oh, and bonus: If you play guitar, there's an appendix that has all the songs, both the music and the lyrics.

This is a book about friendship, music, and the pressures of living up to the standards parents place on their children whether they realize it or not. It's a fast read, and a refreshing gem in teen lit.

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

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