Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth
By Janet Tashjian
Expected publication July 3 by Henry Holt and Co.

It's 1971 and Quinn lives in the mecca of music: Laurel Canyon. His mom is friends with Cass Elliot, his sister has babysat for Carole King, and he writes a music column called "For What It's Worth," filled with musical trivia that probably no one else cares about. But Quinn's world is about to be changed: he might have his first girlfriend, he might be aiding a fugitive, and he might have opened a portal to the afterlife with his Ouija board - could things get any more complicated?

Despite my best intentions, this is the first Tashjian novel I've read. She is one of those authors I've been meaning to read, having heard nothing but good things about her, but haven't gotten around to yet. So, when I saw ARCs of her newest at Midwinter, I figured it would be as good a time as any to try her out. I'm not disappointed. Tashjian creates a believable narrative voice in Quinn - a music-obsessed high schooler who has no idea how to talk to girls and for whome music is everything. This book is an easy and quick read - the action and prose just seem to flow so nicely that the pages fly by. There are some heavy topics at hand, though - it's 1971, after all, and Vietnam looms large over the people in Quinn's life (though he maybe doesn't get what all the fuss is about). Tashjian weaves a number of threads together to tell this story, though I'm not sure each is done as successfully as all the others. What is, I assume, to the major story arc - Quinn's use of the Ouija to contact Club 27 (Janis, Jimi, and Jim) - seems to me the least interesting bit. I suppose, however, that I can see how this is the thread that ties the rest of them together and, thus, the story wouldn't be the same without it. I think Quinn's developing self-identity and exploration of the war and the politics surrounding it are accurate and interesting to read about. It made me, an adult, wonder what it would be like to be growing up in that time period and made me appreciate that each generation grows up in the shadow of something almost too large to comprehend. This book is just plain readable and filled with interesting musical trivia and cameos. I think this has some definite appeal, especially to boys.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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