Can a serious French horn player ever find happiness in marching band?
Thirteen-year-old Elsie starts out determined not to like her high-school marching band. She’s only joined because she needs some ensemble experience before auditioning for the prestigious Shining Birches musical summer camp. One humiliation follows another, many caused by her absolute inability to empathize with those around her, all leaving her frustrated and ashamed. Her problem is understandable: She’s pretty convinced that her future hangs solely on the quality of her musical ability, so she’s never focused on other people, just practice and more practice. But the transcendent joys of marching band—the intense camaraderie of hours and hours of marching in the hot sun, learning how to stay in straight lines, play clearly, follow drill formations and myriad other details that will ring perfectly true for marching-band geeks—gradually change Elsie’s mind. At the same time, she learns, through some trial and mostly error, more effective ways to deal with her controlling parents, manage the stress of adjusting to high school and, most importantly, make friends. At times, Elsie’s introspection is painful, as she overanalyzes the nuances of every relationship, but it is simultaneously realistic.Marching-band kids everywhere will enjoy this believable celebration of a life-changing, musical rite of passage. (Fiction. 11 & up)