Monday, September 26, 2011
Review: Amplified by Tara Kelly
Synopsis: When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . . . In this fresh new novel by critically acclaimed author Tara Kelly, Jasmine finds out what happens when her life gets Amplified. (Goodreads.com)
Jasmine Kiss (yes, that is in fact her real name) gets kicked out of her father's home when she says she does not want to go off to Stanford like planned. She wants time to focus on her music. She has talent but her demanding high school schedule did not allow her the time to practice or hone or her craft. Now, she just wants a chance, one freaking chance, which her father doesn't understand. Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong when leaving home in anger DOES go wrong for Jasmine, starting with her car breaking down. And it isn't a cheap problem to fix (then again, are cars every inexpensive to fix??). And, she butts heads with a boy named Clover.
Jasmine has to get on her feet fast and it leads her to a band tryout. C-Side plays industrial rock and needs a guitarist today. Jasmine gives it a try but she is well, she's a painfully awkward character you will come to love. She really reminded me of myself (even today, at way too close to the edge of 30). She has never performed onstage but she has dreams and knows if she tries and tries, she can do it. Unfortunately, she is rather weak at first, not knowing that just by being herself with her guitar, she can win C-Side over.
This is a story of growth and exploration. Jasmine is seventeen, she has graduated from high school and is ready to explore her own future. These are the kinds of characters I love reading about in YA literature because they face pitfalls, triumphs, and mini disasters. Jasmine experiences all of these and she is alone in the mess. Her new band barely trusts her. The fans of C-Side want her out. Her dad won't even loan her money to fix her car, and her best friend is currently in Maui. Jasmine has no one to rely on and she is just doing her damn best to survive.
She has this dream and much of it is an idealized dream. She doesn't quite realize the pressures she will face when she is actually on stage performing. Nor does she realize that a life of music isn't quite all gold platinum records and fame. But she gets lessons in both, especially when she lets down her band members. But even then, at her lowest point in the story, she rallies and I loved her for it because when it came down to it, Jasmine is not a pushover. There is just so much growth in her character (along with a few bad decisions, she's not perfect after all).
The only aspect of this story that didn't feel fully resolved to me was Jasmine's relationship with her father but upon reflection I think, like her relationship with cute bassist Sean, Jasmine's relationship with her father remains a work in progress. He is a fairly callous man that much is clear. He doesn't buy into Jasmine's dream at all and sees only failure for her but he doesn't want her to fail either. It's a very mixed message so I'm not surprised Jasmine remained all torn up.
On top of the job, Jasmine struggles with a job that pays a bit more than minimum wage, but not much, making new friends, having a crush on a boy who is very clearly not over his ex-girlfriend, and being the new person in a band where there is definite animosity and disbelief that she can ever be what C-Side needs. That's a lot of pressure for any seventeen-year-old but I believed in Jasmine and I think, by the story's end, she believed in herself.
I have to give kudos to the ending too because it was just what Jasmine needed. It wasn't all neatly tied up with a bow. It was realistic and fitting to the journey Jasmine had gone on so far during the course of the story and there's the open-ended potential to see Jasmine continue to grow in her talents and ambitions. I don't need a sequel to see all that either publishers! The author's writing talent itself painted that very nice picture for me.
Amplified worked for me. It broke my reading slump so yay and is the first book I've read in awhile that I wanted to read and it worked out because, I really enjoyed this one! Put this on your to-buy list. It comes out on October 25, 2011 from Henry Holt & Company and I can't wait to own the finished product.
Also, if you're like me and really do not listen to industrial rock music on a regular (or you know, never before), then author Tara Kelly suggests The Birthday Massacre and Kidneythieves. I'm willing to give them a listen because, I don't know if I mentioned this, but the writing in this book paints a very engaging and pumped up picture of this music. The language is edgy and it's clear Tara Kelly knows music and instruments because this is not the writing of an amateur musician. Her knowledge came through really well in the story and added to my enjoyment. Did I mention you should read this book???
ARC from ALA 2011.
Review: Amplified by Tara Kelly