Review: Rock On by Denise Vega

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

Once again, there I was in the library, promising myself I wouldn’t check anything out, no matter how tempting.

…and there I was, walking out of the library with a copy of Denise Vega’s Rock On. On the cover, a picture of a girl and a guy, each with a guitar. And a cute little tag line: A story of guitars, gigs, girls, and a brother (not necessarily in that order).

The cover’s language is quite right. Rock On is the story of Orion Taylor, who is forming a band that he intends to win the Battle of the Bands with. He’s navigating a new lease on life as a high schooler now that older brother Del has headed off to college. Del’s one of those perfect magic guys, but he had Orion’s back – and then some. He was a doting older brother, but something’s going on and he’s a new Del now—one that’s not particularly likeable.

As the band comes together, Del falls apart. The entire book is this way: something good happens, and something bad happens to balance it out. The band has success. They get vandalized. Orion finds a girl. Del seems to steal her. And never once is the world at stake for Orion.

Thus, the book feels like Wonder Bread: it’s light and fluffy and dependable. But it’s not hearty, and it’s not particularly satisfying, and it does leave you wanting more.

Yes, absolutely, it’s Rock Fiction. The entire book revolves around Orion’s personal growth and his path to the Battle. The things he learns, the truths and deceptions. The peace he finds and the trials it takes to get there. It’s all framed by and involving the upcoming battle. Many of the storylines are typical: a boy and his guitar. Kid with dreams. Kid and sibling at odds. First love.

It was a good read, but I’ve read better in the YA genre. I’m also starting to grow tired of the gimmicky use of graphics and different fonts to indicate a flashback. Readers really aren’t this stupid, and instead of setting the book apart, because it’s the new trendy thing to do, the book blends in with many others my kids have been bringing home. The whole wheat bread, the crusty sourdough… that’s the sort of book that I’m looking for. The one that stands out.

But, then, I’ve never been a fan of Wonder Bread.

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