A Malibu High rocker faces the challenges of unexpected overnight superstardom as well as an evil plot to undermine his positive-thinking image and message.
This debut YA novel follows Zach Pembrook, a socially conscious California high schooler with a multicolored “faux-hawk” and a gig as a rock-and-roll drummer. His short-term goals have vast, unintended consequences. In trying to persuade school authorities to allow his band, Cloud Green, to host a music festival, Zach pens a power-pop ballad loosely based on Einstein’s famous formula E=mc2. In another burst of bravado, Zach inserts himself into a snooty debating-society audience, where he packages his passions—music and video games—into a positive message of people power-solving the secrets of nature and cracking the world’s energy shortage riddle. He finds the skeptical adult feedback discouraging. But then Cloud Green’s music and video go viral, and a physicist pronounces Zach’s song a conceptual breakthrough in perceiving life, art, and the cosmos. Overnight, Zach (aka Zach Light) becomes a megastar/messiah, even as he protests to the media that he knows far less about science and quantum metaphysics than his studious twin sister, Tessa. Thomas, an envious, business-minded snob from the debate club, pretends to help with Zach’s instant fashion/music/sustainability corporation, but he really intends to sabotage the rocker. In a parallel narrative, a Mediterranean peasant child named Aetos stows away on a ship and finds his way to Los Angeles; his life will also intersect fatefully with Zach and Tessa. The rags-to-riches-to-reality tale is at its best in depicting an average dude suddenly coping with a society that perceives him as a blend of Justin Bieber and Buddha. There’s a distracting third-act detour into the mystical, with hints of astral beings having a deep investment in the future of Zach and his family (shades of moviedom’s Bill & Ted and their destined-for-glory group Wyld Stallyns). An afterword and bibliography indicate that characters stand for Campbellian archetypes of the human condition—Mind, Body, etc.—except, presumably, Bono, who has a cameo. Thematically similar narrative tutorials by New-Age authors like Richard Bach and Daniel Quinn tend to devolve into lectures and twee dialogues; Davidov, by contrast, keeps the story moving forward, even in the bumpy parts, and Zach, often in over his head, never becomes too much of a Pollyanna.
A transcendental teen idol fable that successfully goes beyond the Tiger Beat/Camp Rock cosmos.