An eighth grader writes a song that perfectly captures how he feels about being stuck between childhood and adulthood.
Anthony's in a tough spot. He's feeling disrespected in the classroom and at home. The only place he feels valued is in the after-school Rock Band Club, a program in which he and his friends excel. After a particularly tough day, Anthony stays up all night writing an angst-y anthem that goes viral. His band mates want to play the song at the school's talent show, but will the administration let them play a song with a couple f-bombs in it? Emerson's prose captures the early-teen mood swings well, but it feels weird coming from a character who does fairly well in school and has two loving parents who support his musical interests. When his song crescendos with a repeated, screamed "F*** THIS PLACE!" it’s hard not to wonder what it is exactly he hates—a point his club adviser tries to get at as well. Regardless, the narrative momentum keeps readers invested in Anthony’s moral conundrum. Unfortunately the book's ending fizzles out in the most disappointing—if realistic—way possible, failing to provide any sort of satisfying resolution to Anthony's problems.
A strong effort that stumbles short of the finish line. (Fiction. 12-14)