Oh, to be a teenager again. As I read Jon Skovron’s debut young adult novel, I was reminded of the intensity of life during one’s adolescence– from peer relationships and school responsibilities to the burning need to “find yourself.” Struts & Frets embodies these ideas within a framework constructed of music, which is at the center of the story in several ways.
Sammy’s life consists of school, hanging out with friends, and most importantly, cultivating his band. When he’s not irritated with the lead singer’s domineering manner, or trying to get all the members to play the same song at the same time, or struggling to get everyone to show up at a practice, he can’t help but believe that they could someday experience success on the indie scene. Sammy lives and breathes music, and even if his mother doesn’t understand it, he can’t imagine a future without it being the central force in his life. The only person who does seem to understand is his now ailing grandfather, who was an accomplished jazz musician. At times, Sammy knows his grandfather truly gets what he feels from music, but now that he’s getting sick, it’s more difficult to reach out to him for understanding.
Throw in a Battle of the Bands contest, which may be a lame kind of contest but still offers a prize of free studio time to make a recording, along with his growing fear about his grandfather’s condition, and confusion regarding the status of his long-standing friendship with a girl who just might be better as more than a friend, and you’ve got a contemporary story of adolescence that flows with an insistence that calls to mind exactly what it feels like to be a teenager. Skovron’s narrative and dialogue ring authentic, especially for the modern urban/suburban setting that he paints. While my experience has shown that some YA fiction can skew toward the younger end of the spectrum, I would personally recommend this book for older teenagers, in consideration of some language and sexual content.
I especially found the relationship between Sammy and his mother, who is raising him on her own and working more than full-time hours, to be touching and genuine. Sometimes there’s more said between them in the words that they don’t say, but the delicacy of the interactions between them were intensely believable on the page.
I feel compelled to disclose that I know this author personally, as he is a fellow parent at my son’s school, and I actually asked him directly if I could review his book. I’m glad that I did, and I was impressed by the realistic and powerful novel that he has written in Struts & Frets.
It’s been a while since Dawn was a teenager, and she was most definitely not one of the cool kids, but now she can pretend to be one on her blog, my thoughts exactly.