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Review in February 19th 2007 issue of Publisher's Weekly
The characters in Italian writer/illustrator Gipi's beautifully painted graphic novel may not be all that likeable, but their struggle to make sense of adolescence through music comes through masterfully. Four friends have dreams of becoming rock stars: obnoxious and jaded Stefano, Nazi-obsessed Alex, long-suffering and worried Alberto and skinny, self-conscious Giuliano, whose father offers the boys use of the garage for practice and recording, on the condition that they stay out of trouble. Stefano's father gets the boys a contact with a record label executive, but before they can finish their demo, an amplifier blows, leading the foursome to commit theft. Stefano must decide whether or not to betray his friends in order to get a job with the record executive; it's particularly powerful scene that echoes Christ's temptation (the two stand over an empty swimming pool rather than on a mountaintop). The visual style is jagged and rough, colors stray willfully outside the lines; the whole aesthetic suggest the uneasy tension that defines young adulthood.
Review in March 15th issue of Booklist
In a wash of melancholy watercolors and with a sense of inescapable anxiety in the line work, Italian writer-artist Gipi tells the story of four very different boys who want to make music. As they meet in the garage that nervous Giuliano's father has let them use, clashes occur, all finely rendered in simple sweeps of story and dialogue. When troublemaker Stefano gets them an honest-to-goodness opportunity with a record label, the group attempts an ill-advised theft of musical equipment, driving the story to a tense but ultimately hopeful end. Somber throughout, with powerful use of well-placed silent panels, the art is both unusual and evocative. The characters, often less than admirable as individuals, come together believably to display loyalty to one another and real joy in their music. With a strong indie sensibility, this book is a good choice for readers interested in edgy art and human drama.
Review in April 1st issue of Kirkus
In this Italian import, four dispossessed friends try to make a go of their band. Narrator Guiliano has a slightly dysfunctional home life (his father loves his prized hunting dogs more than his son), but also has a supportive girlfriend. Alex has a missing dad, an overprotective mother and an obsession with Hitler; Stefano, meanwhile, is obsessed with death and success; and, the final member of the band, Alberto, adores his father. Highly stylized art will either attract or repel readers; most of the boys appear slightly demonic, but the watercolor washes and awkwardly rendered bodies effectively convey their confused, directionless adolescence and paint a portrait of a decaying city and beautiful countryside at odds. A foray into crime causes the boys to lose their practice garage but ultimately teaches a lesson and makes their friendship stronger. The father-son subtexts never come fully to life, but between the art and what is unsaid, much tension is conveyed. Unlikely to have wide appeal, but perfect for flannel-wearing, guitar-playing guys who think there aren't any books for them.
Review in May 2007 issue of School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Guiliano's father lends the boy and his friends the use of a garage for band practice, on the condition that they stay out of trouble. Each teen has a difficult family situation—his parents are variously sick, missing, or emotionally absent—and uses the band to find a degree of freedom, both in the abandonment of performance, and in the cathartic process of songwriting. When an amplifier necessary for a demo recording is irreparable, Alex suggests liberating equipment from a church basement, and the four protagonists find themselves having to decide how much this band really means to them. The art is marvelously atmospheric, with finely chosen watercolors accentuating the loose, cartoony inks. Almost every page has a silent or an establishing panel that gives the sequences a sense of space and place and allows readers to find the emotional subtlety behind the rendered characters. This is an interestingly quiet and spacious work for a book that is ostensibly about making lots of noise in a small space. It is also quite moving, and quietly funny, although some may find the jokes about Nazism in bad taste. A charming and understated work, with careful craftsmanship that belies its scratchy figures and cartoon faces.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH.
Review in May 2007 issue of KLIATT
Garage Band is about a group of four young men who play together in a band. The plot revolves around their attempts to make a demo for a record company executive. When their amp breaks they steal another one, but get in trouble when one of the band members drops his wallet at the scene of the crime. Soon afterwards they find themselves without a place to practice. Is this the end of the band?
Garage Band is set in Italy; it is written and drawn by Gipi. The full-color art is wonderful: dynamic, sketchy, and emotionally expressive. The author is more interested in the lives of his protagonists than the plot. Stefano is obsessed with disease; Giuliano spends most of his time hanging out with his girlfriend (he is the only band member to have a girlfriend); Alberto flies model planes with his father; and Alex has a man-crush on Adolph Hitler. Garage Band needs more details. The four main characters have formed a band and they do play in a garage, but we never learn the band's name or the type of music they play. The characters are interesting, but since the plot is sketchy they don't have much to do. The story contains profanity and references to Nazism and is recommended for libraries with large graphic novel collections; it is a must for libraries that collect foreign graphic novels.
4Q 3P Review in June 2007 issue of VOYA
This Italian graphic novel tells the story of four older teens who form a garage band: skinny Giuliano, whose well-off father loves his hunting dogs more than his son; ambitious Stefano obsessed about fatal diseases since his brother’s death; quiet Alberto, overly concerned about his father’s health; and mohawked Alex, who papers his room with Nazi posters and has lived with prying relatives since his embezzling father decamped to Trinidad. As the boys struggle with personal issues and uncertain futures, their band is severely tested by the loss of their amp, without which they cannot make a recording for the one producer who might listen to them. How far are they willing to go, and how many sacrifices are they willing to make to preserve the group?
Gipi’s subtly hued watercolor and line artwork along with his aggressively homely characters (the reverse of manga characters) set a bleak and moody tone to this story, reflecting the uncertainties of the protagonists’ post-school lives. This combination of bleakness and the boys’ paten faults makes the characters difficult to like at first, but their unfolding stories serve to illuminate their unvarnished humanity, and in the end, they unsuspected depths and strengths. It feels like a true story about real teens struggling to find their paths in life, sorting out what really matters to them. Many teens, particularly boys, will be able to identify with the characters’ plights and struggles, and it is worth pushing to get this book into their hands. —Rebecca Moore
3Q 2P Teen Review
A book painted with artistic images, Garage Band sports a realistic theme relatable to many teens—the pursuit of a dream. Yet while the choices that the characters are forced to make are realistic, the plot seems somewhat dark and unresolved. Readers similar to the characters in the book will find this graphic novel appealing. Other readers might feel disturbed or unable to relate, the most unsettling feature being one of the character’s pro-Nazi sentiments. —Natalie Solski
Review in July 2007 issue of Bookpage
Garage Band, by the acclaimed author/illustrator Gipi, addresses the constant teenage tug-of-war between having fun, following your dreams, and learning to behave like an adult. Narrator Giuliano’s dad agrees to let him and three friends use a garage for band practice. When the band runs into an equipment problem and tries to solve it by taking a shortcut, the boys learn that it’s just as bad to abandon responsibility for the sake of dreams as the other way around. Composed of lovely sketched-and-painted pages in muted colors, the book is not only a lesson and an inspiration, but a real work of art.
Review in the July 2007 issue of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Italian writer-artist Gipi excels at portraying adolescent isolation and anxiety in this translated graphic novel about four teens in a band. In five sections, each loosely based around a song the band hopes to record, the boys encounter the usual obstacles for garage bands: they have a practice space that is uncertain at best, their equipment is old and malfunctioning, and their one insider connection has told them they have no chance. In addition, the teens themselves are awkward bandmates, and frequent personality clashes, portrayed effectively through both dialogue and well-paced silent panels, threaten their success almost as much as outside forces. The characters are unevenly explored, with irascible lead singer Stefano and Hitler-obsessed drummer Alex emerging as the memorable protagonists over the much quieter Giuliano and Alberto. However, the point here isn’t so much the individual characters, the success of the band, or even the life-threatening drama around a stolen amp: Gipi has evoked the perfect sense of potential and despair that accompanies any indie band that could go somewhere but likely will not. The angular yet delicate watercolor illustrations, reminiscent of Robert Andrew Parker's work, add to this atmosphere, hinting at a weatherbeaten small town wherein dreams languish more often than they are fulfilled. Countering the somber tone, however, are the four protagonists whose youth and still viable optimism are especially clear in the confident, joyful body language in the scenes where everything comes together and they are able to just play their music. Supplemental material shows early sketches of the four boys, and illustrates the gradual individualization of each character. Although the languid pacing and eloquent silences may not carry universal appeal, thoughtful readers and wannabe musicians will revel in this deceptively simple but ultimately profound graphic novel.