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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

And I’m back with a new template and a slew of reviews and interviews to share! The GRE looms for me 23 days away and counting.

Up first, my interview with Mark Peter Hughes, author of Lemonade Mouth, a Top 10 BookSense Pick and has been nominated as a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

Mark recently completed a cross-country book tour with his family, promoting the novel. They covered 12,592 miles and 38 states in 57 days! He’s also the author of I Am the Wallpaper. In addition to being a huge Beatles fan, he’s also a musician.

My review from the Summer 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest is below:

Have you ever felt like you weren’t part of the crowd? Mo, Stella, Charlie, Wen, and Olivia have. In Mark Peter Hughes’ young-adult smash, Lemonade Mouth, the rocking five form an unlikely band inspired by a toothpaste jingle, a broken ukulele, a teacher’s cough, and a quiet girl with a soulful voice.

The novel unfolds in a variety of first-person narratives, from the band members themselves, to the teacher who encourages the band’s formation, all compiled by the self-proclaimed “scene queen” of Opoquonsett High, Naomi Fisher. Each of the members of Lemonade Mouth is an outsider in one way or another, but together, through the emotional lyrics of Olivia, the band gives a voice to the school, and starts a revolution. Fueled by Mel’s Organic Lemonade, an “uncool drink,” they help the student population realize that despite their social status, they’re maybe not that different after all.

Lemonade Mouth is an eclectic work. Like the band’s music, the novel is a fusion of different cultures, sexes, social classes, and perspectives. However, upon reading it, I instantly felt a kindred spirit in each of the characters. Lemonade Mouth gives that rare reading experience when, after you’ve finished the book, you’re nearly out of breath, as it has left you with something so thought-provoking.

If you go to LemonadeMouth.com, you can even hear two of the band’s songs or read the first chapter at Mark’s site.

Lemonade Mouth is a really unique novel that operates on a variety of wavelengths and a multitude of people can relate to it, that I had a difficulty composing questions for this interview.

Music is obviously an integral theme of Lemonade Mouth, which leads me to ask, what was your background music as you wrote the novel?

I’m a musician. My main instrument is the guitar, although I play many other instruments—none of them especially well. Currently I’m in a band called The Church Ladies. (Our claim to fame, such as it is, is that we opened up for J. Geils last fall.) In any case, I’ve been in a few bands so I know what being in a band feels like. It seems to meet that a band takes on a personality of its own, apart from that of the individual members. It also has its own story arch, with a beginning, middle and ending.

Lemonade Mouth Itself blends social classes, genres, ethnicity and family situations, so the novel could bridge several genres: coming-of-age tale, memoir, teen fiction, drama, etc. Did you consciously intend to cross genre boundaries? What do you see as your target audience or bookshelf?

My intention was simply to write a good story. When I write, I usually start off with a character or a few characters, and I go from there. There really wasn’t anything calculated about the direction of the story with regards to genre blending. As far as a target audience, I wrote for a young adult audience. I suppose that since the story is about music, at least on a surface level, I imagined it might be of some interest to anyone interested in music and bands. On the other hand, there are many story lines in the novel, so I suppose also imagined it might be of more general interest to teen readers in general.

The ending of the novel gives the reader resolution for the band – that they’re destined for greater things, yet the ending is open-ended – the reader feels Lemonade Mouth’s story has only started. Is there a possibility of a sequel?

There is always that possibility.

You have a spectrum of diverse characters, with different ethnicities, social classes, personalties , etc., coming together in an eclectic and electric mix. With such a range of diversity, there’s a lack of any character with an “alternative lifestyle.” How did you determine which differences to focus on when developing your characters?

I’m not sure what you mean by “alternative lifestyle”, but I’m guessing you mean gay? In any case, I didn’t set out to create a perfect cross-section of American youth—instead I just had a handful of characters that came to me and held my interest, so I worked with them. There was nothing overly calculated about it. If one of the happened to have been gay, then that would have been reflected in the story.

Other author have tackled the fictional band memoir, such as Sara Manning with Guitar Girl, but yours makes the distinct choice of a variety of narrators, from the band members, teachers, the scene-queen compiler of the biography, and students. Why did you choose this method of storytelling rather than one first person or third-person view?

Part of what led me to write the novel using this structure was the book version of The Beatles Anthology. In that, each of the Beatles tells his story from his point of view, and together you get what feels (to me, at least) like a deep an intimate portrayal of the history of that band. This seemed to me to be a wonderful way to chronicle the story of a band, while keeping us up close and personal with each of the characters. So that’s what I did.

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

Hmmm. I don’t know. Definitely not Harry Potter. Too dangerous. Definitely not Lord of the Flies. Too creepy and frightening. Not Winnie the Pooh. Again, too creepy. Way too creepy. I guess somewhere light and fun, but not too dangerous or creepy. Come to think of it, most books are fraught with tension and upset of one kind or another, and who wants to live like that? I’m not sure what book I’d want to live in, but my guess it would have to be a pretty dull indeed. I found The Secret Garden to be almost devoid of fist-clenching intrigue or tension. Maybe that one. Or Anne of Green Gables. Except then I’d have to live in cold Nova Scotia without central heating and among quite a few closed-minded early-twentieth-century people, so that’s no good. Hmmm. I’ll have to keep thinking about this one.

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