Monday, November 9, 2015

For The Record by Charlotte Huang

For The Record by Charlotte Huang
Release Date - November 10, 2015
Publisher Website - Delacorte/Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
If Almost Famous were a YA novel . . . a raw, honest debut celebrating music, friendship, romance, and life on the road.

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like . . . until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen hearthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule . . . Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?
If the CW were to make a show following the the behind the scenes antics of a popular band, For The Record would be it's literary equivalent. This book has everything a great CW show does - forbidden romance, a mysterious girl, a new girl who feels out of place, and plenty of angst. It also happens to be well written, and filled with some fantastic characters.

There is a mix of reality meets over the top drama that really works for this novel. The ending, in particular, felt real and like the only ending plausible for these characters. There are moments of high tension and drama that would be at home on any television show, but there are moments that also felt incredibly honest and true. Even the most heightened elements had a ring of truth to them, and that is because of the writing. The writing never allows the tone to feel ludicrous. Everything that happens is crafted with a kernel of plausibility and the sharp writing brings it together. The characters are taken into consideration and that grounds even the most outlandish events.

Chelsea's situation is an easy one to sympathize with. She's the girl thrust into a ready made band, and is learning things as the reader does. She is also the character that comes across as the most developed. We spend the most time with her, so we get to know her the best. Her journey is easy to get lost in because everything about her character is easy to root for. Her insecurities, triumphs, highs and lows are felt immensely, and is one of the most well crafted parts of the story. She's someone that wants to do things her own way. She's not interested in just fading into the band. She's not instantly comfortable, and she makes mistakes along the way, but always stands up for her convictions. It's sort of the opposite of the 'chosen one' where she'd fit effortlessly into the group. She has to prove herself, and struggle to find her own place within the group. It added another layer of authenticity to the plot that kept it grounded.

The gritty, unglamorous tone of life on the road blended perfectly with this story line. It created the perfect world for these characters to inhabit, while adding to the realistic tone of the story. The novel balanced the good, bad and gross parts to touring in equal measure and showcased how easy it would be to get caught up in the whirlwind. There is heightened urgency to things while in this bubble. Every emotion feels a little deeper, and that includes any tensions. Charlotte Huang captured this in every way possible, even in the littlest details.

While characters like Chelsea, Beckett, Mandy and Pem stood out, plenty of the other characters blended together. The other band mates in particular didn't shine as brightly, and felt like background filler. Hollis, the mysterious girl who Chelsea is replacing, felt like more of a presence than some of the other characters who played a larger role. The characters who were given the attention were well developed, and interesting, so it made the lack of the same in the others stand out all the more. This book would almost benefit from being a series of companion novels, even if the ending is wrapped up a little too firmly for that to happen.

For The Record offers up a fun look at life in a band and all the insanity that comes with it. It's an addictive, drama filled read that will have you flying through the pages. It's perfect for those who love music and who have ever daydreamed about life in a band. 

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