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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Ari Abramson’s most fervent wish is to be noticed. Especially by Sari Horowitz. His parents’ only desire since his birth is for him to attend Brandeis and he knows that having an impressive SAT score won’t get the girl. So he does what so many have done before him: Start a band. Culling his band mates from his Jewish school, Ari forms an unlikely but unique group, appropriately named The Tribe:

Yossi Gluck, the devout and socially awkward, drummer
Reena Gluck, Yossi’s hip sister, lead singer
Jonas Fein, effortlessly cool, bassist

And then there’s Ari. Armed with his Craigslist-purchased guitar and comprehensive knowledge of all things indie, he balances SAT prep with brainstorming song lyrics. His plan works – the band, after performing an impromptu rendition of “Hava Nagilah” (yes, really), becomes a hit and now they’re booking gigs, and receiving classmates’ adoration. But then the inevitable happens: tempers flare, creative differences abound.

Micol Ostow’s So Punk Rock is part novel, part graphic novel. All great. It’s an accurate look at all the cachets of indie-cool, from ironically worn “uniform” shirts, to earmarked copies of books by Murakami. Ari laments over Jonas’ poor taste in music, snickering at his fondness for Fall Out Boy and other hot-for-the-moment acts. A note about the music mentioned in the novel: I always like when novels use real musician and band names, rather than inventing their own. I feel like it grounds the novel that much more in reality. With all the namedropping and musical terms, it’s a mini-lesson in indie appreciation (Ari’s screenname is ILikeLouReed). There’s even a guide at the end of the novel to the musical and Jewish terminology.

In the midst of his need to be cool, there’s another recognizable want in Ari: to live his own life. Saddled with his parents’ high expectations, he hides his musical adventures even as his brother’s coveting his autograph. The story of Ari dealing with the demands of parental obligations and his own life plans is a fitting background for the pitfalls of his newfound fame.

The illustrations, by the author’s brother, David Ostow, both accentuate the novel and stand on their own. The panels depict the journey of The Tribe, and contain just as much wit as the text.

So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) is a dead-on depiction of the hipster scene paralleled with the awkward, hilarious and frustrating minefield that is teenage life.

Copy for review solicited from the publisher.

Title: So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother)
Micol Ostow with art by David Ostow
Date: July 2009
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 260
Format: Trade paperback


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