A music-obsessed teen in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon begins to connect the songs he loves to world events.
In 1971, Quinn enjoys a sweet life. His family counts Mama Cass Elliott and Carole King as friends, and he can spend every dime on an impressive collection of some of the greatest albums pressed to vinyl. Quinn’s taste and knowledge are as eclectic as they are rigorous—he loves Frank Zappa, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Aretha Franklin and Nick Drake with equal gusto—and music permeates his every waking thought, including the thematic lists and columns he publishes in his high school newspaper. While the endless stream of musical and historical references places the action very firmly in 1971-72 and showcases Tashjian’s flawless research, it also threatens to overwhelm the narrative, which is itself overstuffed. Too many pages call attention to historical details such as the cancellation of Star Trek or the passage of the 26th Amendment, ejecting readers from the story. They may have a hard time caring about Quinn’s humorously awkward first romance with Caroline, his Ouija-board–based communication with the spirits of Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin, or his developing political consciousness regarding the draft and the brutalities of the Vietnam War.
Young readers will discover some wonderful music, but only if they’re prepared to wade through a stultifying thicket of social and cultural references. (Historical fiction. 12-16)