Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Amplified, by Tara Kelly

AmplifiedAmplified by Tara Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When 17 yo MC Jasmine tells her domineering doctor dad that she'd like to defer her entry to Stanford for a year to pursue her dream of a musical career, he doesn't take it so well. In fact, when she doesn't back down, he gives her 15 minutes to "get her stuff and get out," all the while insisting that "he's not the bad guy here." Jaz heads to Santa Cruz, just over the hills from the snooty suburb where she's never really fit in. While desperately (and wildly unsuccessfully) searching Craigslist for a place to stay, she sees an audition notice for a guitarist in C-Side, an industrial rock band that seems perfect for her intense and atmospheric guitar playing. So perfect that it even includes a room in a cool oceanside house, and a chance to actually make friends with Veta, the band's awesome girl singer. Only a few obstacles stand in Jasmine's way - like, she's never actually played in public, except for the infamous "Cornflake Girl," incident which still haunts her stage fright nightmares; her house mates are three guys with strong personalities, who seem reluctant to accept her as a player and a person; and perhaps most importantly, one of them is that total dick from the auto shop where her car broke down on her way into town (not a good day all around, long story). Yep, that guy who, just when she was at her lowest (so far, uh oh) had to mock and humiliate her seemingly just because he could. And doggone it, he would have to be the hot one, too.

One of the things I liked about this book was the realistic way that many of Jasmine's problems are somewhat self-inflicted. Understandably, she's not very forthcoming with her thoughts and feelings, and that causes no end of problems for her. I say "understandably," because her dad is a relentless and harsh judger/belittler, and although it's not clear whether he blames her for her mother abandoning them when Jaz was five, or just sees too much of her mother in her, the ghost of her mom, and Jasmine's attempts to exorcise it by doing everything her dad's ever wanted has brought her to the point of feeling ... well, not very much. So, since opening up is her big bugaboo, it's so great that she goes to work for a psychic whose whole focus is on opening and reading people's thoughts and feelings. Just what the doctor (well, not her dad, haha) ordered, right? Well, no, not that simple, since the lonely, determined to be self-reliant Jasmine resolutely resists the effort. So a great part of the story is Jasmine learning to trust and open up. It's sweet and touching and feels tentative, painful and real.

Another part of the story that is really awesome is the music (ok, prob not a big surprise, given the title and all). The author really brings C-Side to life - the lyrics are poetic, ambiguous, intense and dreamy. She describes the music so well, it really is like you are listening, in the sense that it gives you that emotional rush that good music does. And Jasmine believes in the power of music so much - it's transcendent for her, it's where she finds and expresses those feelings she works so hard to deny the rest of the time, and that only makes it all the more powerful, for her and the reader. So it's especially painful when her struggles extend even to the one area where she's so invested and where so much is riding on her tough, but still vulnerable, cute little shoulders.

This is a story about a lonely girl finding friendship, a green girl growing up, the healing magic of music, the sweet scariness of new romance (though it's not a romance), and about hanging tough even after you've been hung out to dry. Really, you should read this book, it's pretty wonderful!

For music geeks, there's lots of fun and juicy details of gear, guitars and amps. Clearly written with affection by someone who knows what she's talking about. Jasmine's rig? Awesomesauce!

While this is Jasmine's story, almost every character comes to life. They are all multi-faceted, real feeling and complex. It's hard to see even the "bad guys," without seeing that maybe there's more to them, and that they are people too (except her dad, what an a-hole, I don't blame her mom one bit!)

So, all in all, a great, fun read, with real emotions, fun and intense, seriously, you should read it!

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