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December 19, 2010

Rock Star Superstar

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Rock Star Superstar by Blake Nelson: Book Cover

Rock Star Superstar

Author: Blake Nelson

Page Length: 229

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Pete loves music and playing his bass. He’s in the jazz band at school and plays with his band after school. His band even get gigs at parties sometimes. At sixteen life seems ok for Pete, but then he gets better. He meets Margaret and soon gains a girlfriend. He gets recruited by a new band with a great following and radical new sound. As his popularity begins to soar, will Pete lose sight of who he really is? Is he really ready to be just some band boy – or is there more to Pete than meets the eye?

REVIEW: Kids who are really in to music and bands would probably enjoy this book. There are several passages about playing live, the sounds of the group, and descriptions of everyone’s playing and talent. Pete gets a new girlfriend and it isn’t long before he’s making out and getting out his condoms. As his stardom rises, Pete begins to let other areas of his life go. He also lacks a clear supportive figure at home – as his dad drinks too much and is out on dates too often. In the end, Pete recovers, comes back to his senses, and realizes that what he really wanted in life might just have been right there in front of him all along.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: teenagers having sex, discussion of condom use, drinking, fighting

RELATED BOOKS: The New Rules of High School, Girl, User, Gender Blender, Paranoid Park, Exile

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Girl (1998), The New Guy (2002)


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009


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Author: Kevin Brooks

Page Length: 364  

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joe is an ordinary teen age boy living outside London with his father and sister.  His parent’s are divorced although they continue to see each other.  Joe plays bass in a local rock band.  One day, on the way to a doctor’s appointment, Joe encounters Candy, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen.  His conversation with her in Mc Donald’s is brief because a large black man comes in to the restaurant and forces her to leave with him.

Although the encounter was brief, Joe did get Candy’s number. He calls her and they meet at the London Zoo.  While in the Moonlight World tunnel, Candy begins to kiss Joe and a heavy make-out scene follows.  Joe is aware that Candy is taking some type of drugs but he is not sure what.  He becomes obsessed with her and writes a song about her. 

When Candy goes to see Joe at the club where his band is playing, she hears the song about her.  As the crowd applauds the performance, a fight breaks out between the black man who appears to possess Candy, and Mike, Joe’s future brother-in-law.  Joe discovers Candy is living a life of heroin drug addiction and prostitution. Determined to help her, he risks his relationship with his father and his friends and eventually his own life. 

REVIEW: The book is a narrative written from Joe’s point of view.  The characters are developed in a realistic manner in which the reader can embrace their feelings and emotions.

I would recommend the book for mature teens.  The content is heavy, but gripping, as the characters experience the tragedies of drug addiction.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Conflict, Theme, and Character

TOUCHY AREAS: Teachers should be aware that the theme of the book is about drug addiction.  Mild profanity is used throughout the book (p. 22, 30, 102, 118, 285, through the end of the book) and a heavy make-out scene is described on page 97.  There is drug use on pages: 116, 142, and 195.  Chapter 19 describes Candy’s withdrawal from heroin.  There is also physical violence included.       

RELATED BOOKS: Crank, The Beast, Slam, Charmed, Rats Saw God, No Problem, The Glory Field

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Miles from Home (2006),


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Born Blue

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Born Blue

Author: Han Nolan

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Until you’ve been a foster child whose own mother will trade you for drugs, you don’t know what a hard life is. Janie does. Janie’s life has been nothing but hard times, trials, and tribulations – but, she’s blessed with an amazing gift. She has the voice of an angel – of course a career as a singer isn’t easy to come by and is all too often filled with the same elements that have made her life miserable in the first place. Will Janie have the strength to nurture her talent or will she succumb to a life of bad decisions and end up just like her mother?

REVIEW: Born Blue looks at the struggles of young Janie. Her first big memory is of drowning followed by placement with a foster family. Her friendship with a young boy got her through until her mother kidnapped her and traded her for a fix. Janie’s growing up now and learning that a life with no friends and no family is empty. She becomes bitter and disillusioned and takes to the streets. It’s all too easy for Janie to become involved with the wrong crowd. Singing like the great ladies – so famous for the blues – seems to be Janie’s only saving grace.

The book is good tool for teaching students the dangers of drug abuse and how life is a series of choices and the consequences that follow each of those choices. Janie wants to be a superstar and has a dream of recording with the greats – so many students can relate to her reaching desperately for the stars and her desire to be famous. However, Janie, because she’s been hurt along the way, hurts others too. She ends up handing her baby over to a young man as if he is the father even though he is not. He’s never told that the baby is not his (I am wary of the message this sends – even though Janie does what is best for the child in the end). Janie’s showing promise by the end of the book, but the reader has been taken through her lying, cheating, stealing, drug abuse, random sexual encounters, etc.  I would not read this as a class novel although there are many compelling issues for discussion.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, plot, cause and effect, use of dialect and its effects

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “I left his room but I left my panties behind” (147)

“I wanted what he give me, every bit of it” (140)

Death from an overdose, sexual incidents, drug use

RELATED BOOKS: The Facts Speak for Themselves, Dancing on the Edge, Sending Me Down a Miracle, When We Were Saints, A Summer of Kings

RELATED WEBSITES:                    

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

September 21, 2008


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Author: Lesley Choyce

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jeremy is a sixteen year old boy who has a love for guitars and rock and roll. Ever since his father gave him a guitar as a gift, playing music has been his passion. Jeremy is part of a band with two others guys – Alistair and Steve. All three enter a Battle of the Bands competition at a local bar – “The Dungeon”, in hopes that they may secure a place as a regular musical act there. “Thunderbowl” is their name and rock and roll is their game!

There is one major catch – Jeremy is underage in this bar that he is to play in and no one but his band mates know this. Also, Jeremy’s parents do not know that he is spending his time at “The Dungeon”. Jeremy ultimately lies to get in and his band mates and he play their hearts out. They win the competition and are awarded the opportunity to play at the bar several nights a week. This means Jeremy will be out late – past 1:00am.

Once his parents discover that he is out so late, his homework is not being completed, his front tooth gets knocked out, and he is failing in school, they demand that Jeremy quit the band. Jeremy disobeys them and even considers dropping out of school for love of music. Even his teacher, Mr. Langford, tries his best to talk Jeremy into staying in school, but Jeremy has eyes only for the guitar.

One night while playing at “The Dungeon”, Jeremy spots his teacher in the crowd. Again, Mr. Langford tries to convince Jeremy to focus more on his studies. Jeremy seems continually oblivious to the teacher’s advice and encouragement. At around this time, Jeremy gives up with his parents nagging and leaves his home to live with his band mates.

Jeremy eventually misses the comforts of his family and home and grows tired of the violence that occurs at the club between his band and another local group. After several incidents, Jeremy comes up with a compromise between the two bands that allows both to play without any feelings of jealously. It is at this time that Jeremy realizes the idea of moderation. He understands that he immersed himself too much into his music at the start and did not try to achieve a balance between work (school) and play (music). Eventually Jeremy finds this balance and is well on his way to success – his band mates and he are soon to cut a demo track in a studio.

REVIEW: I enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to follow and was an enjoyable story. Most high school students have “big dreams” such as football players, rap artists, and rock stars. However few realize that it does take a sense of balance and direction in order to achieve greatness. A discussion on the effects of school on one’s life would be appropriate.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: foreshadowing & predictions (page 9), internal conflict

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There are several references to “booze”, “beer”, “cigarettes”, and a “bar”. Also, one of the teachers in this book is placed at a bar with liquor in the presence of one of his students.

RELATED BOOKS: Fat Kid Rules the World (great to use as a comparison contrast reading)

MOVIE & MEDIA CONNECTIONS: “Rockstar” (2001), Video Games – Rockband & Guitar Hero

RELATED WEBSITES: (Article about Rockband vs. Guitar Hero)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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