Toby’s life in Port Jackson, England, is frankly weird.
This makes it hard to concentrate on his recent good luck: getting his first gig for the unnamed two-man band that only plays Beatles’ covers that he has started with best friend Zack. Toby is okay with being atypical, though, his attitude remaining light and carefree despite awkward experiences with girls and rugby. But the use of his older brother’s guitar and other band equipment sets up a moral dilemma when Toby begins to slowly realize that all of it may be stolen. Compounding this, an unusual encounter resulting from a dare Zack proposes may lead to romance with Michelle, a feisty female with her own ideas of right and wrong. Briant has an ear for smart-aleck teen talk and keeps the first-person narration crisp. Through Toby's voice, he allows readers to make small leaps of understanding instead of relying on exposition. First love comes into the story sideways, as do entertaining characters; neither sidetracks the plot, which threads all the events together in a steadily satisfying manner. The focus is on romance, character and, above all, music. Even laid-back Toby is captured by the mystique of the Fender bass and the cloud surrounding its provenance.
The witty nonchalance of both dialogue and narration keeps this rock-'n'-roll romp light and entertaining and successfully balances it with suspense. (Mystery. 12 & up)