Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kelly, Tara Harmonic Feedback

Kelly, Tara Harmonic Feedback
Henry Holt/macmillan children's pub group 2010 280p 16.99
978-0-8050-9010-9 hs Realistic Fiction E-BN
When Drea and her mother move in with her grandmother, she finds that she can have real friends, in spite of her Asperger’s , and that having a boyfriend for the first time does not guarantee happiness. I was pleasantly surprised by the well-rounded characterizations Kelly created for this absorbing debut novel.

Drea is the new kid in town. Despite “a touch of Asperger’s” and ADHD, she finds herself welcomed by Naomi and Justin, who seem to genuinely like Drea. The three form a band that holds jam sessions after school. Justin becomes Drea’s first boyfriend. Naomi’s drug issues escalate to a crisis, and her friends must be deal with the aftermath of Naomi’s death.

Teens will identify with how Drea copes with being different and self-conscious. Common ground is established as everyone feels they are not part of the group at some point. It is easy for the reader to forget Drea’s Asperger’s/ADHD, since -- aside from being frank/blunt/rude -- she acts/thinks like a mainstream teenager. The focus is on friendship, acceptance, and coming-of-age. Naomi’s death is not sugar-coated.

Many references are made to a variety of contemporary (indie) bands (there’s a list of all the characters’ playlist on the Harmonic Feedback website). Teens may identify with the groups now, but it will eventually date this novel. Descriptions of Drea’s synesthetic reactions to music and color border on lyrical. However, despite the title, music is peripheral to the theme of accepting yourself for who you are.

Absorbing debut novel featuring well-rounded, believable characters. Welliver, Hilary

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