Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tempo Change by Barbara Hall

I know a LOT of book bloggers have this one but there are barely any reviews, so listen up, y’all!

You take one look at it and think it’ll be your typical whiny book. You read the back copy--a famous, absent father? An all-girl band to get his attention? WHINY. Pass.

God, I hate this cover. When I first looked at it, it was like, “Couldn’t they afford to ink the whole thing?” The girl’s pretty and all but…meh. I mean, doesn’t it look a bit awkward? A tweenish? And frivolous? (Am I crazy?) I wasn’t planning on reading it.

Evidently, I did, or else we wouldn’t be here. The whole nine yards:

Amee and I have this thing where we’ll randomly ask the other to pick each other’s next book to read. In this case, I couldn’t make up my mind and deferred to Amee’s expertise in picking whatever from my pile. After a moment of deliberation, she picked Tempo Change, either because she was genuinely interested or because she knew it’d result in a snarky review if I hated it. Yeah. I don’t secretly (or not so secretly, I guess) call her Ambiguous Amee for no reason. ;)

I told her, “If I hate it, it’s your fault.” She laughed as she often does at my antics and sent me off to read.

A decade ago, sophomore music guru Blanche’s father walked out on them to go “find himself.” See, he’s an artiste, a renowned musician who went into obscurity because he’s so complicated. (That is indeed sarcasm you see. Blanche doesn’t quite go there, but I’m cruel and uninvolved and I say he’s scum.) Blanche tries not to grudge him this and is level-headed about his fame, but she idolizes him anyway and craves contact with him aside from his sporadic emails. Even though she fights off the “artist” label like the curse she thinks it is, insisting instead on being a “musical critic”, Blanche inadvertently finds herself in a band that she secretly hopes will bring him to her.

(The premise kind of reminded me of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert. They’re very different though.)

What I liked here is that, right before my eyes, Tempo Change transformed from an accumulation musical notes and references, to an exploration of ambition, talent, expectations, and reality. Blanche longs to understand the intricacies of having a gift and having dreams and everything that comes in between.

Because look at her examples: a mother she views as talentless with perceived frugal ambition settling for a quiet life, and a father with more talent than he needed who ended up abandoning her and isolating himself. It’s a struggle for her to understand the middle-ground, especially when she’s blinded by her desire of a father and her sharp criticism of the parent she does have. (That age-old thing of it being easier to get mad at the ones you love because you know they’'ll keep loving you back. Always wanting what you can’t have.)

It’s more of a coming-of-age novel than anything else, and I swear, as riddled as it was with Truths, what makes Tempo Change stand out is its own reflections of those Truths. The biggest example I can think of this is when Blanche says, “Because I didn’t realize that when your prayers get answered, it doesn’t look the way you expect it to. It doesn’t look like happiness, necessarily. It just looks like getting what you asked for.” Pretty cool, huh?

Final, conclusive reaction: I like this. I tweeted about this. I’m surprised by how much I like this.

Delacorte | 256 pages | June 9th, 2009 | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon


ali :) said...

Love, love, love your review, my dear Steph! I always love the books which you think, at first, are strange, weird or that you'll hate, but, instead, you end up liking a lot! :D

Perhaps, I'm blind, but what grade did you give this novel?

Lots of love, love, love!

Lianne said...

this book looks great, I really want to read it!

Vee said...

Sounds like a great, underrated book. I have to get my hands on it!

Jacqueline C. said...

I loooove this cover! Sounds good too.

Amee said...

Haha, I never thought you might dislike it! My intentions were completely pure. ;)

Shelly B said...

I have this one to review too and kinda thought the same things when I saw the cover. Glad to hear you liked it!

Readingjunky said...

Been anxious to read this one - now even more so. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Great review! Glad to hear you liked it. :D

Summer said...

awesome! It's always fun to be suprised by liking a book.

Cindy said...

I saw this, I want this, and I'm glad you liked it too :)

Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for reviewing, I hadn't heard about it yet!

Jess said...

I love when a novel surprises you by being better than expected -- great review.

Anonymous said...

Great review!
I hope your review will convince other bloggers who have it to read and review it, too. Underrated books need some love!
I love the cover, though. Maybe it looks different in reality, but here I find it interesting. :)

Laina said...

Isn't it cool when books surprise you? I love that. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this now and am finding I like how perceptive Blanche is. The book is a lot like "Joan of Arcadia."

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