From the Publisher
“Moving.” Kirkus Reviews
“A poignant and powerful novel of friendship and courage.” School Library Journal
“It is the transcending heartbreak of Sam and Luis' deepening friendship that beckons every reader to heed his or her own inner voice.” Booklist
Children's Literature - Enid Portnoy
How would you feel, far away from your good friends, put into a new school, your mom going away and you, living with your grandparents in a new town? Sam’s dream of becoming a musician and having a career writing songs has gone down the tubes, and from where he sits, there is nothing for him in his new environment. All he has on his mind is homework he does not want to do, the “stupid rules and stupid kids” in his class. There is only one idea that does make sense: Sam will make up his own rules and follow them no matter what. Sam decides it is all that tough new guy’s faultthe guy who sat beside Sam in class. He looks like a tough gangster, and his name even sounds tough: Luis Cardenas. Suddenly an English class assignment forces Luis and Sam to work together. Teen readers can easily choose whose side they should be on as the Flores-Scott dialogue paints a realistic picture of what is happening to Sam and others in school who are watching Sam’s every move. Interspersed between dialogue and description of scenes from the fast moving plot Flores- Scott adds poems written secretly by Luis, to describe how others are treating him. Later on, Sam begins writing song lyrics again. The chapters are short and filled with rough language, including the internal struggles in Sam’s mind. Dialogue is pointed and sharp, reflecting why each of the main characters are afraid to express their feelings publicly. Older readers will feel themselves being sucked into the whirlwind of emotions as Sam searches to find someone he can trust. Flores-Scott is a sensitive writer teen readers will appreciate. Reviewer: Enid Portnoy; Ages 12 up.
VOYA - Jennifer M. Miskec
Sam is a loner who has perfected being invisible. But when Luis shows up in classa new kid with a nasty scar down his neckSam's cover is blown as he quickly becomes connected to this very visible young man with a bad reputation. The thing is...Luis is not what he appears to be; he is not his angry older brother, Flaco, or a bad influence on Sam. He is a poet and a good friend, and soon Sam and Luis are writing slam poetry together. Then Luis's brother's past catches up with Luis and draws him into danger. The rumor is that Luis is involved in a gang fight and is suspended. With only cryptic messages from Luis, Sam fears that Luis is in danger. Then Sam discovers that Luis's disappearance is not what everyone thinks: it is worse. Told in prose and verse, Sam and Luis's story is about finding their voices, becoming visible, and making connections with others. It is a bit melodramatic in parts, but it is satisfying to see teen boys building a friendship and finding connection. Musicfrom hip hop to grungeworks as a soundtrack to the piece, which will certainly resonate with young readers. Reviewer: Jennifer M. Miskec
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Sam Gregory chooses to blend into the woodwork in his 10th-grade classes, following rules that slackers know, including: never be late and never look a teacher in the eye. Anonymity seems like the best option for this budding musician whose messed-up mother ditches him during a visit to Grandpa Bill and Grandma Ginny's. To add insult to injury, their parrot, Gilbert, continues to squawk out, "Good-bye, Sam! Good-bye Sam!" his mother's painful parting cry. At his new school, Ms. Cassidy pairs Sam with the scariest "cholo" in class for a poetry share, and he worries that Luis Cárdenas, with his huge jagged neck scar, has no other plans than to pound him into the ground. When Luis invites Sam home to work on the project, an unlikely and tenuous bond forms around the lyrical, yet powerful, words they contribute to the slam. On performance day, Luis fails to show and sends only a recording of his part, fueling a rumor he was suspended for being involved in a gang fight. Sam finds strength in the quality of their work to go it alone and ultimately learns the painful secret his friend has kept from him, and everyone. This boy-centric debut novel references songs and guitarists such as Kurt Cobain, and Luis's raps are rife with themes of anger and life's hardships. Adult characters are largely supportive and positive; raw language is integral to the work. A poignant and powerful novel of friendship and courage.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
A slacker learns life lessons from a slam-poet classmate in an inspiring if overly optimistic school story. Grunge-rock devotee Sam has been trying to avoid the attention of teachers and other students ever since his mom left town two years earlier. Then the equally quiet Luis Cárdenas arrives in Sam's English class, and meddlesome Ms. Cassidy seats the two of them together. Rumors fly about Luis: His brother is an infamous gangster, and there is a mean-looking scar on Luis' neck. Sam doesn't see Luis' true colors until Ms. Cassidy announces that the class will have a poetry slam. Luis not only throws himself into creating a poem, he inspires Sam to do the same. The boys' sudden, unmitigated enthusiasm for a school project may be hard to swallow, but there is something infectiously hopeful in Luis' devotion to poetry, as well as in the inspiration Sam takes from old footage of Kurt Cobain. When Luis disappears after a gang fight, Sam, once a loner, teams up with classmates, teachers, neighbors and old friends to find out what has happened. Short, punchy sentences, paragraphs and chapters give the novel's prose a sense of motion, and Luis' poems, interspersed with the narrative, give readers added insight into Luis' character. Unabashedly didactic, but moving nonetheless. (Fiction. 12-16)
Read an Excerpt
nir·va·na n def: an ultimate experience of some pleasurable emotion such as harmony or joy
Nir·va·na n def: a legendary kick-ass rock-and-roll band from my hometown of Aberdeen, Washington
I’M THINKING ABOUT RUPE AND DAVE.
My buddies from Aberdeen, out on the Washington coast. It’s where I used to live before I was “temporarily” moved away. And it’s where Rupe and Dave and I used to dream of becoming the next Nirvana.
The next hard-rocking, ass-kicking, world-famous band from Aberdeen.
A movie rolls in my brain. I’m watching us fish for cutthroat trout from the muddy banks of the Wishkah River. I see Rupert smiling at me with his big ol’ buckteeth, his long, rust-red hair flowing in the wind as he baits his hook with a massive, wriggling night crawler. Dave zips back and forth along the bank, a blur of Coke-bottle glasses, dirty blond buzz cut and turbocharged ADHD, pointing and shouting, “Cast here! Cast here, guys!”
We’re just little seventh graders fishing and having a good time, but all we can do is argue about Nirvana.
We argue about what Nirvana would be like now if Kurt Cobain hadn’t decided to leave this world.
I argue that “Scoff” is a way better song than “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which is awesome, but there’s no way it rocks as hard as “Scoff” does.
And Rupe and Dave argue over who should play what when we start our own band.
We wipe the mud and worm and fish muck off our hands and rock-paper-scissors it for who’s gonna be Kurt and who’s gonna be bassist Krist Novoselic, the two original members of Aberdeen’s Nirvana before they added drummer Dave Grohl and became Seattle’s Nirvana.
We take our Nirvana Tour of Aberdeen and walk in the shadows of our idols, sneaking into Aberdeen High School, strutting the halls like we don’t give a shit, peeing in the weeds on the banks of the Wishkah, smoking stolen cigarettes beneath the pier at night.
Stalking their ghosts.
Because those guys had something we want.
And we’re not gonna stop until we find it.
We hang out at the abandoned old house where Kurt and Krist and a parade of drummers used to rehearse before their band had a name. Dave carves our initials into the peeling white shingles, and we stuff our faces with fat blackberries plucked from the tangle of vines taking over the yard. Sprawled out on the front porch, Rupe writes list after list of possible band names while I scrawl lyrics in my blue spiral notebook and imagine my voice belting those songs out over thumping drums and bass.
We dream of making Aberdeen rock again.
Making the country rock again.
Making the world rock again.
On summer nights, my mom stuffs us full of her incredible barbecue chicken and homemade mac and cheese and s’mores. Lying in the tall grass, under the ancient cedar tree, we press Play on the boom box and lose ourselves in “Scoff,” “Paper Cuts,” “Swap Meet.” We leave our troubles behind, shredding air guitars, pounding imaginary snare drums and tom-toms as we sing like rock stars and float way up to the clouds—then higher and higher, and far, far away, to a whole ’nother world of head-banging nirvana.
That was then.
Copyright © 2013 by Patrick Flores-Scott