Rock War by Robert Muchamore

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Hodder Children's Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781444914535.
(Age: 14+) Themes: Peer relationships, Overcoming difficulties, Dysfunctional families, Adolescence, Crime, Non-Conformity. The book clearly displays a label that states, 'Not suitable for Younger Readers.'Jay, Summer and Dylan are three young students who live with unusual, but completely different family circumstances, and yet they share a path into a Rock Music destination. In Muchamore's latest series, the gritty and complex backgrounds of the band members of three hard-rock bands creates an interesting backdrop as they enter a Rock band competition for young teens. The Prologue opens with the suggestion of future success, a teaser that opens up the possibility of the world of stardom. The narrative begins with a competition that reveals Jay as a central figure in the plot, and then the author weaves in the other main characters in succeeding chapters.
The setting of this book places the main characters from urban inner city or Estate underclass of England (If you have ever watched The Bill, you will recognise the environs), or from a contrasting private school privilege and will appeal to Teens who appreciate life lived on the edge. The issues that Muchamore includes within the lives of the band members, their school friends and their families include peer dilemmas , bullying, jealousy, crime, ADHD and its impacts, cutting, being a teen carer, dysfunctional family composition, sexual abuse, teen sexual behaviour and the chaotic consequences of poor choices. These characters are not from 'neat' family backgrounds, and they do not experience easy routes to success, but some of them still do homework after school. Music, though, is a powerful vehicle to express their angst and to experience some control in their lives. Muchamore includes some earthy language on occasions to communicate the culture and voices of the teens, and their attitudes to authority.
Despite the youthful 'hard-rock' culture, there is evidence of care and concern for family members and the main characters are likeable and believable. This will be a series that appeals to those whose music preferences are far from the Pop or Classical world. Both male and female readers will find it appealing, but it is not for the very young. The book clearly displays a label that states, 'Not suitable for Younger Readers.' Do NOT disregard this label. Because of the issues that the author raises, this book is for older readers (at least 14+), even though some of the characters within the Rock Bands are quite young. Characters make choices within the book that are far from exemplary, and some crime details are confronting.
Note, as this is the first in the series, there is obvious development of the competition between the bands still to come. This is not a text that would warrant Class study.
Carolyn Hull