Final Grade: 96/A
Recommend to students: A resounding YES!
REVIEW: Oh, I really, really liked this story. Annabelle Cabrera is such a fun character--she's bright, driven and spunky (oh, wait...don't call her spunky, she hates that). And I feel so bad for her at the beginning of the book. She had a really good thing going back in Brooklyn with her grandmother to take care of her while her parents are off doing their band thing. The parents' indie band, Bennie and Joon, is Dad's main focus and Mom's focus is Dad, leaving little room for the kids. This was okay when they lived with their grandmother but not good at all when they're stuck up in Providence, RI. One cannot live on chocolate chip pancakes alone, no matter how tasty.
Plus, and possibly most tragic, Annabelle has no one to rock out with! Back in NY, she was part of an up-and-coming band, one that was going places, one with fans as far away as Japan. But in RI, nothing. She's bound and determined to form her own band, with her as bassist and lead singer, and to write her own songs, too. That's more difficult that she expects, especially with an already-established rock band of 8th graders who also like to beat kids up and steal their lunch money.
The author brings his experience and knowledge of the music scene and of playing music to the story, which adds another dimension to it. I love how into music Annabelle is, how she goes about finding people who feel the same as she does, and how she finds support for her efforts from her ex-bandmate, who gives her the Rules to Rock By.
My only quibble is that these kids seemed older than sixth grade. The sixth graders I taught, especially at the beginning of the year, are more like elementary kids, pretty immature and nowhere as confident as Annabelle and her friends. I saw them more as eighth or ninth graders (which may not sound like a lot but it *really* is, especially in middle school). However, that's just me. I know there are mature 11 and 12 year olds out there but they're few and far between (despite what they think!). But this such a minor thing, it doesn't change the tone or tenor of the story (notice the music reference? heehee).
I'm adding this one to my list of favorite summer reads for 2010 'cause it totally rocks! (Sorry, it had to be said.