Tempo Change

Tempo Change

3.7 4
by Barbara Hall

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Barbara Hall captures the voice of a teenage girl who not only writes and performs music but also deals with a famous but absent father.
Not many people at the private school Blanche Kelly attends on scholarship know that she’s the daughter of someone famous. It has always made her feel special to know that her father is an indie rock icon, even

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Barbara Hall captures the voice of a teenage girl who not only writes and performs music but also deals with a famous but absent father.
Not many people at the private school Blanche Kelly attends on scholarship know that she’s the daughter of someone famous. It has always made her feel special to know that her father is an indie rock icon, even if he did leave when she was in first grade. Blanche’s mother has had to provide for her alone since then, and it hasn’t been easy, but Blanche can’t quite forgive her mom for not understanding that an artist like her dad needs time and space to connect to his muse. So when she and her father get in contact again, Blanche keeps it a secret from her mother.
   Meanwhile, acting on a crazy spur-of-the-moment decision, Blanche creates an all-girl rock band. Their sound quickly captures a wide audience, and they are invited to compete at the Coachella Music Festival. Blanche realizes that this could be the perfect opportunity for a reunion with her father. Won’t her father be proud to hear her band, whether they win or not?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hall, a rocker as well as an author (The Noah Confessions), is familiar with the trappings that accompany life as a musician, yet this novel about a high school band's moment in the sun teeters between glam and corny. Sixteen-year-old Blanche Kelly's father, a famous musician, has been out of the picture for the past 10 years, and her mother is a recovering alcoholic. Blanche, smart but lacking a social life, starts a band called The Fringers on a whim; the group wins some local competitions and goes on to play at the Coachella music festival. She enjoys the spotlight, but is crushed when her selfish and aging rock star dad, who has resurfaced, is not what she expected. Blanche is a religious skeptic, which lends the book some depth, and music buffs will appreciate nods to Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith and the like. But the clichéd vocabulary used to describe the music scene and the tepid dialogue between Blanche and her dysfunctional parents may disappoint. Ages 12-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Blanche, a high school sophomore, does not want to be defined by her father. A renowned musician, Duncan Kelly disappeared at the height of his career, abandoning not just his fans but also his six-year-old daughter. Of course, no one at the teen's downscale prep school even knows her father is famous, and she treats her own songwriting like a dirty secret. Blanche is headed straight for college, no detours and no messing around—until she suddenly decides to start a band. Things go smoothly at first, but soon tensions develop among the band members, followed closely by an identity crisis for Blanche. Is she a freak, or an artist? The one thing she knows is that she is not a normal person for whom everything is certain, which is how she classifies her mother, many of her peers, and, eventually, her bandmates. It takes meeting her father to realize that the world isn't divided into those who made it and those who gave up. Tempo Change treads familiar paths and the plot is sometimes contrived, particularly the unreasonable premise that the entire novel is Blanche's memoir, written over the weekend at the request of a reporter. Still, readers will be drawn by the protagonist's frank narrative and her insider/outsider perspective toward music culture. Give it to fans of Cecil Castellucci's Beige (Candlewick, 2007) or Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006).—Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Blanche's father, who did a disappearing act when she was six, is famous, a seminal rocker who has been off finding himself for the last ten years. Blanche idealizes him and longs to have him back in her life. So, after her newly formed band is asked to play in a famous festival, she invites him to attend, inadvertently setting off an emotional bombshell. Although that's what the plot is about, Hall's real interest is the personal and generational interconnections between ego, talent, dreams and assumptions. These concerns are neatly dramatized through a host of characters, most notably Blanche's recovering alcoholic mother, who stuck with her daughter and whose scaled-back aspirations are modest, and Blanche's self-absorbed, runaway father, a legend with an oversized talent and unresolved ambitions. This is not to say that the story is in any way preachy or didactic. Despite the fact that the plot hits some dissonant notes, it's a funny, lively performance, and Blanche, who narrates the story in the first person, is a witty, likable companion. Bravo. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

And So It Happened

When I got home from school there was a note by the phone.

My mother had written it. It was in her large, loopy handwriting that always seemed like it was shouting. Sometimes she actually drew flowers or smiley faces and they seemed like they were shouting, too. Be happy! Chin up! It's all good! But the contents were usually completely ordinary, like Dinner's in the fridge! or I'll be home around eight!

This time the note was completely different:

Maggie Somebody called from Topspin magazine. Something about writing an article. Here's the number. She wants you to call. XOX

I stared at it for a long time. Finally I picked up the phone and called my mom at work.

"Biscuit," she said in her chirpy tone. That was the name of the clothing store she worked in, not a nickname for me.

"Hi, Mom. What's this note?"

"What's what note?"

"Somebody called from Topspin magazine?"

"Oh, yes. Maggie from that magazine. I know it's a music magazine. Does this have something to do with your father? Or maybe you don't want to tell me?"

"Mom, I really have no clue. You took the call. Topspin is like one of the best indie magazines on the market. What about an article? Maybe it has something to do with Coachella."

"Why don't you just dial the number and see?"

"This could be a big deal," I said.

"Well, just give that Maggie a call. Let me know what she says."

I hung up and stared at the phone for another minute, then dialed the number. Someone said, "Topspin magazine," and I asked for Maggie and then someone said, "You got her."



"This is Blanche Kelly."


I repeated my name. "You called about an article."

"Oh, Blanche Kelly," she said. I could hear the exhale from a cigarette. I pictured her as some hip and tortured type.

"So Blanche," she said, as if she was picking up from some conversation we had had earlier. "I'm really interested in your experience at Coachella."

"You're interested in my band, the Fringers?"


"The Fringers. My band. We played at Coachella. That's why you're calling? Somebody saw us there or something?"

"Everybody knows what happened there. It was history-making."


"And I want you to write about the whole experience."

My heart dropped a little. Deep down I'd known it would be like this. There was no escape.

"You want me to write about my father."

"Yes," she said. "That would make a great piece."

There was a protracted silence.

Then she added, "Oh, money. We pay . . ." Blah blah blah. Some words and terms that didn't mean much to me. I did some math in my head and figured out what they were going to pay me. Not that much. But this wasn't about the money.

"I'm in high school," I said.

"Right," she said.

"I'm not a professional writer."

"We know that. But we want your unique perspective."

"About my father."

"Right," she said. "You're the only daughter, right?"

I was quiet.

"You can write whatever you want. We can fix it up, you know," she added.

What could I say? That this was going to be happening to me for the rest of my life? In one way or another. While I was still quiet she piped up with "Okay, we'll pay three hundred dollars."

I was still thinking, but asked, "When would I have to deliver it?"

"I'll need it by Monday."

I laughed. "That's so soon."

She said, "I know, but that's real-world journalism."

Real world. She didn't sound too much older than me from her voice and she had figured out the real world.

"So will you do it?" she asked. " 'Cause I'll keep an open space."

"I'll think about it."

"I need it on Monday."

"Best I can say is, if you get it on Monday, then I guess you'll have your answer."

I hung up the phone and stood in the living room and thought about what I had to say.

Maggie from Topspin said she wanted to know about my own unique perspective. Because of my father.

As I had recently learned, it's best to be careful what you ask for.

I went into my room and turned on my computer. I stared at its blank but demanding screen. The prompter blinked.

There was so much to say.

Now I had someone to say it to.

So I started to write. I couldn't start with what Maggie called a "history-making" experience. For me it went back before that day. I started where I felt I had to . . . back to when the cracks in the dam first appeared, and then the dam burst.

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