Smart-mouthed rock guitarist Ritchie Sudden forms a band and spends time in a juvenile-detention facility.
Ritchie’s first-person narrative alternates between two present-tense storylines. In one, he is locked in an institution he calls Progressive Progress, where therapists push him to keep a journal and hardened fellow detainees arrange fights for other boys to bet on. In the other, which takes place before his imprisonment, Ritchie and his friend Elliot Hella, “the dude too cool to know it, too weird to be popular, too hardcore to give a shit,” start a band in hopes of competing in Rock Scene 2013. The stylized narration moves quickly, littered with jokes and references, some clever, some oddly dated (“there’s the Bridge, which, yeah, is a bridge, but with no water underneath, troubled or otherwise”) and some jarringly harsh (“football is a concussion factory and cheerleaders are hot pockets of chlamydia”). Larger-than-life characters are mostly played to comic effect, often successfully: Chaos the bongo drummer (who pronounces his name “Chowus”) and El Hella himself are two standouts. Behind the music quest, sarcasm and pursuit of girls, however, lies a more complicated and often compelling story about family, grief and flawed coping mechanisms.
Hit-and-miss humor, but worth a read for budding rock stars. (Fiction. 14-18)