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.
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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
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)