Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Year of Epic Rock WITH GIVEAWAY

When I saw My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros show up on NetGalley, I knew immediately that I had to read it. I love books about music, friendship, and fitting in. These are the type of realistic books that appeal to my daughter and her friends right now, and that I have no trouble selling to kids looking for recommendations. It is always nice to find one that is especially well done and is truly relatable to the kids who read it. I think My Year of Epic Rock is one of those for sure.

How to survive the seventh grade? Make some Noise!
A funny relatable tale about friendship, first crushes and…anaphylactic shock?        
It’s the first day of seventh grade, and Nina already can’t wait for the year to be over. When her best friend ditches her to hang out with the popular new girl, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”- banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts.

Nina thinks she’s finally found her feet when she forms a band with the other allergic kids called the EpiPens. But then a whole new set of middle school mine fields head her way- like how to win her BFF back and what would happen if she finally kisses her crush for the first time after he’s just eaten a PB&J sandwich.

Nina's voice is spot on seventh grade girl. It is genuine in every way possible, as is Nina's journey of self-discovery through the rocky start of the school year. Who hasn't weathered the pain and heartbreak that comes from a friendship changing or ending due to the trials of growing up? It is a story so many people can relate to, and that a good deal of the target audience may be experiencing as they read this. Pyros does such a great job of depicting the emotions and confusion involved so well. I particularly liked this thought of Nina's: I felt like the way girls feel in songs when they sing about a boy leaving them. How come no one ever sings a song about a friend leaving you for a newer friend.? This had to hurt as much as a romance ending, right? Or maybe a guy breaking your heart was worse. In which case, remind me never, ever, to fall in love. Because losing your best friend IS as devastating if not more so, particularly at this age when everything feels like it is spinning out of your control anyway. What I really like about Nina's story, is that it is just her story. Readers may find in it that they are not alone and they may find some inspiration for making it through a similar situation, or it can be read just as an interesting look at this one girl's life and journey through middle school. Nina is also awkward, an ordinary student, makes some normal mistakes, and tries to make up for them the best way she knows how. She is incredibly easy to relate to, and yet her voice is also strong and so assuredly hers, that she comes across an actual real person in her own right. (Not so flat and lacking nuance that the reader can just insert themselves into her position.)

The cast of supporting characters is equally engaging. Nina's parents are supportive and active. They are typical parents who love, annoy, and embarrass their middle school daughter. She appreciates them for all these things. The other EpiPen members each have their own distinct personalities and contribute to the story as well. Some more than others, but as a team they are all essential. I also appreciated how the personalities of Brianna (the former best friend) and Shelly (the new super popular girl) are handled. They say some mean and snarky things as 7th grade girls are wont to do, but they are not superficially inflated into caricatures of middle school villains. I also love how diverse the cast of characters is, and how that diversity isn't remarked on, it just is. 

The book is mostly a school and friendship story that uses the plot of the band to move things along a set timeline. I do like the way the band stuff was handled. All of the kids come into it already knowing how to play their instruments. When they start out, they are terrible. They actually have to work hard and practice to be able to perform. There was no magic, "hey we're suddenly awesome" moment. And while their performance goes well, it is accompanied by the awkwardness and nerves typical of a middle school talent show. 

This is a novel I will be recommending to the kids I know who love these sorts of books, my own daughter being top on my list. She will definitely enjoy it. It is certainly one I would recommend having on hand in a school and classroom libraries. It is written in a way that the 4th-5th graders who want to read (and there will be lots) will be a able to, and at the same time middle schoolers will enjoy it and relate as well. 

GIVEAWAY: I'm giving away one paperback copy of My Year of Epic Rock courtesy of the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. This giveaway is restricted to US and Canada only.

1) Leave a comment below saying why this book interests you.
2) Include a way I can reach you (email or twitter handle)
3) Giveaway closes at Sunday, September 7 at 8:00 PM EDT. Entries must be received by then. 


Shae McDaniel said...

Oh my goodness, this looks so cute! Wee middle school bands! First crushes! Allergies! Haha. Not only do I think I'd like it, but I might be able to interest my little sister, too. Thanks for the cool review, Brandy!


Lisa Roberts said...

Great review, Brandy. I would love to win this book for my seventh grade friend, Maddie. Maddie is highly allergic to many foods, carries and EpiPen, plays several musical instruments and would love this book.

April said...

You can write a Middle School novel with me as your inspiration-I am sure I gave you more than enough awkwardness and emotional drama to fill a series. :-)

Brandy said...

You did have quite a lot more drama than I did. I remember thinking at times, "Whoa, I'm glad I'll be in college for most of her high school years cause wow."

April said...

:-( Middle School was way worse. I think.