From the Publisher
"Nowlin perfectly captures the awkwardness of unspoken love (with a nod towards polyamorous love) in this quick, engaging tale of three musicians' senior year...Alternating chapters from all three protagonists offer complete and rich portraits of each character through their own thoughts and their best friends' impressions. Nowlin clearly communicates the visceral pleasures of performing music, as well as the giddiness of infatuation and first love. " - Booklist
"Nowlin (If He Had Been with Me) captures the antsy energy of senior year and the desire to stand out while still fitting in as she alternates among the three observant narrators...the story offers distinctive characters who show maturity as they seek to create satisfying creative and romantic relationships." - Publishers Weekly
"This book was a total joy to read...Nowlin really captured what to me is a distinctly teenage feeling of being instantly completely obsessed with someone, finding everything they do fascinating, and then being confused on what to do next. This book should be in all collections. It's not often we see an asexual character in YA or see romantic relationships handled the way they are here. A wonderful, quick, unique read. " - Teen Librarian Toolbox, School Library Journal
"A quick read that should attract teens who are drawn to the music scene, as well as those open to exploring the sexual expectations that accompany romance" - VOYA Magazine
VOYA, February 2016 (Vol. 38, No. 6) - Diane Colson
Ramona is quirky and cool. In contrast, Sam is quiet, barely noticeable. But there is chemistry between them that translates into powerful music. Ramona’s ecstasy on the drums meshes perfectly with Sam’s intense guitar playing. They are a band of two. Then they meet Tom at an audition for a prestigious music program. Ramona knows that the three of them are meant to play together, and the two boys gradually come to agree. Before you can say “love triangle,” Ramona is fiercely in love with both Sam and Tom. But this triangle does not have a predictable resolution. Rather than generating steamy romance, the book skips through the viewpoints of the three main characters as they search for the truth of their hearts’ desires. Sam wonders if music is really his thing, or if he is better suited to the study of chemistry. Tom wonders if he can be honest about his sexuality. And Ramona wonders how she can love two boys at one time, like the way she loves to play both the piano and the drums. This is a quick read that should attract teens who are drawn to the music scene, as well as those open to exploring the sexual expectations that accompany romance. Nowlin avoids exhibitionism when dealing with sexual topics, keeping the emotions sweet and the ending open to possibilities. Reviewer: Diane Colson; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Teen musicians Ramona and Sam seek out a third bandmate to complete their group, April and the Rain. Tom fits the bill, and the three become instant friends. In classic teen fashion, Sam is secretly in love with Ramona. Ramona has feelings for Sam, and now finds herself falling for Tom. Tom is dealing with the aftermath of an awkward breakup but ends up dating Ramona so as not to jeopardize their friendship. The book is told in each of their own voices, and the trio's friendship strengthens with time as they grapple with how their feelings may mean different things to one another. VERDICT A typical teen story dealing with atypical types of friendship, love, and acceptance.—Vivian Ho, Port Washington Public Library, NY
Read an Excerpt
Have you ever met someone and you could feel that they were going to be important to you? It's like you never knew it, but you've been waiting your whole life to meet this person, and you recognize him with the same ease that you recognize your reflection.
That happened to me once.
• • •
When Sam told me his name, I laughed. It was like I should have already known. It was like he was already my Sam.
"Sorry," I said. "I'm not laughing at you."
"What are you laughing at?" he asked. We were standing on the stairwell outside the music department. Some guy knocked into his shoulder, but Sam didn't react. When Sam is interested in something, it's like the whole rest of the world has ceased to exist.
"It's just, I feel like I should have already known that. You look like a Sam. Does that make sense?" I asked.
"No," Sam said, and he gave me my first crooked smile. We were both freshmen, and it was the first day of school.
"I'm Ramona," I said.
"That makes sense," he said.
• • •
"I said that?" Sam asks. He frowns at his guitar. He's replacing the B string, so I only have about one-eighth of his attention right now.
"Yeah, it was like we already knew each other's names or something." And then quieter, 'cause I'm not sure if I want him to hear or not, "Or felt each other's names."
Sam continues to frown at his guitar. I drum an impatient six-eighths beat on the garage floor. "Hurry up," I say. "Nanami is waiting for us."
Nanami is our band's biggest and only fan. Whenever we post a new video on our web page, she comments immediately the next day. Someday when April and the Rain is super famous, we're going to go to Japan on tour and meet her in person-and she will be thrilled.
I move my drumming off the floor and onto Sam's sneaker. He doesn't react.
"So, are we skipping band practice tomorrow?" I ask.
"Why would we?" He finally looks up at me, and when I see his eyes, I feel the familiar flutter in my chest. Sam has brown, sleepy eyes fringed with long, black lashes.
"'Cause we're going to Artibus tomorrow! Did you forget?"
"No," Sam says. "But I don't see why we should skip practice. If anything, it should make us want to practice more."
For years Sam and I have dreamed of escaping Saint Joseph's Prep for the campus of Artibus College of Music and Arts. In case you don't know, high school sucks. Our high school especially, because it's full of rich kids-and the only thing worse than a poseur is a poseur with money. Sam and I don't hang out much with anybody else.
We're finally about to start our senior year. Summer is almost over, but first we have the admission evaluation tomorrow. School will start, and before we know it, we'll be applying for admission over winter break. The end is in sight.
"Almost done," he says.
I speed up my drumming on his foot.
"Ow! Okay, I'm done! Jeez, woman."
"You know you love me," I say.
"Yeah, yeah," he says, but he gives me that crooked smile, and I know it's true. I just wish it were a different sort of love.
• • •
It only took two days of being friends with Sam for us to start our band. In a month, he was the best friend I'd ever had. After a month and a half, I knew I was crushing on him hard, but I figured I'd get over it. I wasn't going to put the band at risk just because I was having girlie feelings.
By the time April and the Rain was a year old, I had to admit that I was in love with Sam. We were sophomores, we'd put up our website, and we'd told our asinine classmates a hundred times that no, we weren't dating.
Up in Sam's room, we post this week's video. Yesterday Sam came up with a killer riff, and today we played it in a bunch of different tempos, so I got to do some pretty cool tricks on my kit. Nanami is gonna love it.
"We need to keep practicing this one," Sam says. "I wish we had just one more person to fill it out, maybe do a little vocal work." Sam is always saying this, but I don't think that lightning will strike us again. We were lucky enough to find each other.