For What It's Worth

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The year is 1971 and the place is Laurel Canyon, California. Quinn, a fourteen-year-old music “encyclopedia,” writes a music column—called "For What It's Worth"—for his school paper. But Quinn’s world is about to change when he is faced with helping a war dodger and must make some tough decisions. When he starts receiving cryptic Ouija board messages from Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix (all members of the 27 Club), he knows he is in over his head. Fortunately for Quinn, his new girlfriend ...

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The year is 1971 and the place is Laurel Canyon, California. Quinn, a fourteen-year-old music “encyclopedia,” writes a music column—called "For What It's Worth"—for his school paper. But Quinn’s world is about to change when he is faced with helping a war dodger and must make some tough decisions. When he starts receiving cryptic Ouija board messages from Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix (all members of the 27 Club), he knows he is in over his head. Fortunately for Quinn, his new girlfriend Caroline helps him get a grip and channel his inner self. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Music-obsessed 14-year-old Quinn is growing up in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, where he has personal relationships with stars like Mama Cass and Frank Zappa. When he gets his first girlfriend, his life is “Phil-Spector-produced perfect,” but then it starts to warp: Quinn’s girlfriend may be more interested in one of his band mates, his parents are separating, and he must decide what to do about a “draft dodger” friend of his sister’s who refuses to fight in Vietnam. Readers unfamiliar with the music and events of the ’70s may take a while to get into the rhythm of Quinn’s story, but Tashjian (The Gospel According to Larry) informs them in fun ways, including themed playlists, Quinn’s interspersed school newspaper columns about music, and a Ouija board that Quinn believes connects him to the spirits of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Even those who do not share Quinn’s musical passion will be inspired by his growing understanding of the complex adult world and the sacrifice he makes. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (July)
From the Publisher
"Tashjian…paints a vivid scene of early ‘70s California lifestyles.”—VOYA

"Tashjian is spot-on…”—School Library Journal

"...the endless stream of musical and historical references places the action very firmly in 1971-72 and showcases Tashjian’s flawless research…”—Kirkus

"Even those who do not share Quinn’s musical passion will be inspired by his growing understanding of the complex adult world and the sacrifice he makes." —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Vote for Larry:

A Publishers Weekly Editor’s Pick

Time Out NewYork Kids Pick of the Literature

Lois Lowry's Top Five Books for Summer

Booksense National Bestseller List

Praise for The Gospel According to Larry:

A Booksense Pick

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

A New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age

A Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book

Praise for My Life as a Book:

“Give this to kids who think they don’t like reading. It might change their minds.” —Booklist, starred review

“A kinder, gentler Wimpy Kid with all the fun and more plot.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Sure to engage fans of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (Abrams) as well as those looking for a spunky, contemporary boy with a mystery to solve.” —School Library Journal

VOYA - Mark Letcher
It is 1971 and fourteen-year-old Quinn lives in Laurel Canyon, California, an artistic hotbed and home to many of the rock industry's biggest and most influential stars. Quinn lives for music—he maintains a huge collection of rock LPs, writes a music column for his school newspaper, and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary rock ?n' roll. When he meets Caroline, a new girl at school whose musical IQ is lacking, Quinn realizes there may be more to his life than just a great guitar riff. Then the real world, beyond the idyllic image of Laurel Canyon, begins to make its way into Quinn's life: Caroline's brother is drafted into service in Vietnam, Quinn aids a draft dodger who knows his sister, and Quinn's parents teeter on the edge of divorce. Quinn must make some difficult choices on his own, without relying on the spiritual guidance of rock's most famous recently deceased. Tashjian presents Quinn's voice in an engaging, honest first-person narration, and paints a vivid scene of early ?70s California lifestyles. Quinn's struggles with relationships, learning more about the socio-political realties around him, and understanding the consequences of his actions will resonate with young readers. Fans of classic rock will enjoy the numerous album lists and references to music groups, and several rock stars have roles in the novel. Music fans, in particular, should appreciate Quinn's obsession with rock, both as an album connoisseur and a budding guitarist. Be sure to turn your stereo up as you read this one. Reviewer: Mark Letcher
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Fourteen-year old Quinn is a music nerd. It's 1971 and Quinn lives in Laurel Canyon, home to Mama Cass (his mother's best friend), Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell and more. He constantly makes lists about music and even writes a music trivia column for the school paper—"For What It's Worth"—which is interspersed throughout the text. When he starts 8th grade, he is glad to be reunited with his friends and hopefully future band mates, Willie and Ryan. He also meets the totally uncool new girl in school, Caroline, who becomes his girlfriend. The nightly news is full of the Vietnam war, Caroline—a photography buff—has a photograph of the Kent State shooting on the cover of her notebook, the new substitute teacher talks about the war every day in class, and his sister at college in Boston says a friend of hers is running from the draft and may ask Quinn for help. Quinn's life is full of surprises this year, not the least of which is getting in touch with Club 27 (musicians Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison who died when they were 27 years old) through his Ouija board. Characters and story line are thoroughly engaging but this book may have a small niche for voluntary readers. It would make a very palatable accompaniment to study about the Vietnam War, the ethics of conscientious objectors, and civic engagement in general. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
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)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Set in the music mecca of Laurel Canyon, CA, in the early 1970s, this story chronicles Quinn's struggles with the insecurities and nuances of adolescence as he navigates painful discoveries about the times in which he resides. It is first and foremost a well-written, sensitive coming-of-age story. The 14-year-old lives and breathes rock 'n' roll and his candid, self-deprecating narrative is interspersed with the incredibly detailed music columns and lists that he writes for the school newspaper. When Caroline becomes his first girlfriend, no one is more surprised than Quinn. Tashjian is spot-on as she describes the boy's growing awareness of the world, developing understanding of his parents as people, and awakening to varied injustices. She masterfully focuses on the teen's personal journey from a one-dimensional rock-music addict to a young man trying to cope with bigger issues. Up to this point, Quinn's worldview has been focused like a laser beam, but outspoken discussions initiated by one of his teachers awaken him to awareness of the Vietnam War, as does Caroline's sadness when her brother is drafted. When Brett, a draft dodger and a friend of his sister, shows up, Quinn takes courageous risks to help Brett make it to Canada. He creates Club 27 and uses a Ouija board to seek advice from Janis Joplin and other rock musicians who oddly and coincidentally died at the age of 27. Tashjian's talent for characterization is evident throughout, most notably in Quinn. Fans of Blake Nelson's Rock Star Superstar (Viking, 2004) should enjoy this quirky, absorbing book.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805093650
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 828,295
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Tashjian is the author of many popular novels including My Life as a Book, My Life as a Stuntboy, and The Gospel According to Larry. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

For What It's Worth

By Janet Tashjian

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Copyright © 2012 Janet Tashjian
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780805093650



Rock and roll can change the world and save your life—and that’s just for starters. I challenge anyone on the planet to remain in a bad mood when “Gimme Shelter” comes on the radio. It’s physically impossible, right? Rock and roll can get you through a boring school year, give you something to bond over with your friends, even provide you with a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
You think I’m exaggerating? Listening to music is a critical step in growing up, as important as learning how to ride a bike with no hands. And not just rock and roll—pop, rhythm and blues, country, jazz—I don’t care what it is, I’ll listen to it. I’m like a junkie with a twenty-four-hour addiction, except the needle’s not in my arm, it’s on my turntable. Lucky for me, I live in the epicenter of the national music scene. Not just California, but Los Angeles. And not just Los Angeles, but Laurel Canyon. If you love music, there’s nowhere else to be in 1971 but here. I can sit on my front steps, throw a rock in any direction, and hit someone making music for a living. Songwriters, drummers, singers, sound engineers—I’ve trick-or-treated at their houses since grade school. My sister, Soosie, housesits for Joni Mitchell, for crying out loud. Don’t believe me? Ask Soosie to show you the scratches on her arm from Joni’s cat—the singer/songwriter might be known for writing emotionally bare songs about her love life, but her feline companion is a lot less subtle with her claws.
Where do I fit into this musical melting pot? I’m the guy who chronicles EVERYTHING in his ever-present notebook—Elton John’s first U.S. appearance at the Troubador, The Band’s newest demo, any rock-and-roll tidbit a music freak like me might want to know about. I continually make lists of songs, artists, and albums—mostly when I should be doing homework. I begged my English teacher last year to let me write a column for the school paper about the music scene called “For What It’s Worth,” based on the Buffalo Springfield song. She finally relented, and I’ve been cranking out columns and lists ever since. Just to keep in practice, I stockpiled several of them this summer too. Speaking of Joni Mitchell, I just finished one about her dumping Graham Nash while she was on vacation. Women—they’ll annihilate your heart every time.
The city is pulsing, the city is moving to an internal beat—can you hear it?
I can.

Text copyright © 2012 by Janet Tashjian
Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Adam Gustavson


Excerpted from For What It's Worth by Janet Tashjian Copyright © 2012 by Janet Tashjian. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    Highly recommended.

    This was a gift for my son who loves this author. He loved the book. He actually wrote to this author and she was kind enough to write a hand-written reply to him.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2012

    Five stars all the way

    This book totally change my life. I already love the author and have met her but i was still slow to read this book. I wish i hadn't waited. It was amazing. You don't even have to love music to love this book i am at a loss for words - that good. As soon as i finished this book i turned off all the lights in my room put on the radio and sat in the dark thinking about the book. I am not kidding one of the best books i have read. I am in sixth grade so like 11 and up
    - The Bookworm Girl

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Attention rock lovers, this book RULES!

    This book is awesome! I love rock music, so it was really cool to be able to read a novel starring some of the greats. The only problem was that it made me wish I lived during that time! I'm totally making a playlist for this book.

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  • Posted August 21, 2012

    Recommended for hip mother/daughter book clubs!

    My daughter and I picked this book for our mother/daughter book club because I was her age in the 70s and I wanted her to know about the culture at the time. My daughter's knowledge of the music in the book was limited, which led to much discussion and sharing about our favorite music and rock and roll history. I loved the way that this book allowed me to bond with her.

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