No, no this isn’t another rant about kids, or education, or politics. Shocking, I know.
I’m actually writing about books again! Can I get a hallelujah, or maybe a “praise Yahweh” up in here?
Here’s the thing I’ve got to talk to you all about this book, because it was seriously so freaking amazing. I literally had to put the book down and send the author an email part way through.
I’m sitting at home reading my ARC of Audition & Subtraction, bawling my eyes out and laughing out loud, wishing my oldest daughter was home so I could share it with her.
This book is so good, it’s worth putting my ranty pants on hold. And for everyone who is sick of all of our ranty pantsing and who just wants to disappear into a good story, let me introduce you to your next read.
Audition & Subtraction is the new Middle Grade novel from Amy Fellner Dominy. It was also my Must Have book for September. And it didn’t disappoint.
The story goes like this, Tatum plays clarinet in the school band. And this year she’s trying out for District Honor Band. She’s pretty sure she’s got it in the bag too, until Michael moves to town. It turns out he’s not only hot, he’s also a hotshot. Clarinetist that is.
Tatum’s best friend Lori vows to hate him and support Tatum, after all, they’ve been BFFs since before forever. They’ve already planned their audition duet and everything. But things get sticky when Lori falls for Michael. Now Tatum might not only lose her place in the honor band, she might lose her best friend too.
Audition & Subtraction is filled with such great tension and emotional truth. Reading it, I remembered just how awkward and totally sucky middle school was, and how amazing and totally wonderful it could be too.
Amy does an amazing job of writing about the heavy choices kids have to make, and how life or death critical they all feel at the time. Everything at that age is high drama. A great example happens when Tatum is thinking about a conversation she just had with Michael, the enemy. He’s just told her a story about his life, to try to gain her sympathy. But does he deserve it? After all,
Obviously he didn’t care that I couldn’t even talk to my best friend anymore. Her heart might be on my side, but her lips were on his.
Zing. Amy just nails it – those roiling emotions, the dramatic self-pity, the outrage of losing a friend to a cute guy with a skateboard, the feeling of being out of control in your own life.
A little later on, Tatum is talking with her science lab partner Aaron over their dead frog. He makes a snarky remark about Michael and,
A rush of True Like flooded through me – I really ought to create a whole new Level of Like in honor of Aaron. If we weren’t sitting over a dead amphibian, I would have reached out and hugged him.
True Like – What a perfect term for that stage where suddenly, unexpectedly you realize that that dorky lab partner you’ve been stuck with all year is actually a really great guy. That emotion that shoves through you as you realize he really doesn’t have coodies, and that if he was a girl, he’d probably be your real BFF. And he probably wouldn’t be locking lips with the enemy either.
This book is all about personal awakening. It’s all about that awkward time that Americans call secondary school where we are no longer kids, but we have no idea how to be adults. It’s that strange stumbling in the dark stage where we are told to dream big, and shoot for the stars. But we really just want to crawl into a closet and hide.
The closet felt cozy with the door closed – like a cocoon. That made me smile. I was the caterpillar in my cocoon, and I could play inside as beautifully as a butterfly.
As many of my long time readers may know, I recently discovered Judy Blume. Yes, at the age of 33, I finally read Forever… And ever since, I have been searching for this generation’s Judy. This generation’s author of deep emotional truth, righteous honesty and gentle humor and wit.
Someone brave enough, bold enough, and skilled enough to tackle the daunting days of middle school and high school, of first loves, of lost friendships… Those days of high drama and the feeling that every little decision really was life or death, every choice really was going on our permanent record, every moment really was crucial…
This generation’s author who could speak to today’s kids and talk TO them, not AT them. An author who could reveal the truth of adolescence, the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the fear – and the joy, the discovery and the triumph.
I think I found her. Though Amy is a new author, in her work, in the subjects she tackles and the artful way she reveals the stories around them, in her ability to cover the heavy subjects – without being heavy-handed, in her ability to teach without preaching and in her remarkable ability to make her readers laugh through the tears and cry in sheer exultant joy, Amy Fellner Dominy brings an emotional depth and honesty to the teen and tween years that truly does rival Judy Blume.
So for all those parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles of Judy’s generation who are looking for something fresh to give today’s kids – Pick up Audition & Subtraction, or for the older kids, give OyMG a try. They are both fabulous stories.
And now – a personal favor, if I may be so bold.
My kids’ fall Scholastic fliers came home the other day, and as I opened them up, I had this strange, totally irrational moment where I was POSITIVE absolutely POSITIVE that Audition & Subtraction was going to be in there, even though it’s a brand new book and not published by Scholastic.
But here’s the thing – it should be.
And I know that Scholastic will sometimes issue special Scholastic editions of awesome books originally published by other houses. So… I wrote to them, and I asked them how to nominate a book for this honor. And… They emailed me back with the answer to a completely different question. Super not helpful.
But I know that some of my readers are more deeply embedded in that level of the publishing world than I am, so I ask you – please, pick up a copy of Audition & Subtraction (or OyMG, because frankly Scholastic needs to work on its YA offerings too), or ask me to send you one, and read it for yourself. Then, if you agree, and if you know someone who knows someone – pass it on to them and let’s get this book in that catalog.
This is the book I want to order for my nieces this year.
This is the book I want stocked in school libraries.
This is the book.
Help me make it happen.