Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beyond the Music
by Shannon Brown
I thoroughly enjoyed Shannon Brown’s first novel, “Rock’n’Roll in Locker Seventeen,” and have been looking forward to her next book. “Beyond the Music” is a pre-quel to her first novel. Instead of taking up where “Rock'N’Roll in Locker Seventeen” leaves off, Ms. Brown goes back in time and tells the story of Ellen Daniels, the mother of her first book’s protagonist, Steven White. Of course, having read the first book, I knew what was going to happen. The fun of the book is how the story unfolds.

Ms. Brown has conveyed the torturous young woman’s angst of losing the first “love” that most young people go through as they mature. Ellen is frustrated that her family can’t afford to send her to college because of her father’s string of failed businesses. When her father moves the family to Canada., she misses her friends and the college life her high school friends are enjoying. Then enters a mysterious stranger, Jack White, with a secret past, and Ellen’s boring life is much improved. 

After a visit to her old hometown and friends, Ellen realizes that working instead of going to college has given her perspective and maturity that her high school friends lack. She's ready for the next stage of her life.

For those of us who have read the first book in Ms. Brown's series, there are plenty of clue to make some guesses about Jack White's past. But for someone reading "Beyond the Music" first, they might not guess Jack White's secret. In either case, it's a good read.

I highly recommend this delightful, humorous, and fun romance with a sweet mystery thrown in for even more interest. I look forward to the third installment, “Facing the Music,” in this enjoyable series from Ms. Brown. This series is recommended for  high school and young adult readers. There is some college age partying and drinking and the protagonist, Ellen Daniels is a high school graduate.

Information on author Shannon V.  Brown is at:

My December 2013, review of "Rock'N'Roll in Locker Seventeen" is on Amazon:

"Rock'N'Roll in Locker Seventeen," by Shannon V. Brown, is a great book for teenage boys and girls, their parents, and yes, their grandparents, too. Why? Because Ms. Brown's first book has cross-generational appeal. It harkens back to the days when rock and roll ruled - those golden days of yesteryear. It has humor and piques one's interest, plus it is replete with musical and musician references (which I loved and hope you will, too.) Siblings will enjoy the banter between Steven and his bright younger sister, Jeanne. Parents will commiserate with Steven's parents, Ellen and Jack White, having to raise two teenagers at the same time in a small Mid-Western town. While grandparents will rise above it all, but enjoy the journey back in time to a somewhat simpler period.

The story begins with seventeen year old Steven White obsessing about his rock and roll idol, Ricky Stevenson, who mysteriously disappeared thirty years ago, but left a wonderful musical legacy. Yes, it is a mystery, even though the clues are laid out pretty clearly for us to figure out even before Steven does. We follow Steven through his rather ordinary mid-1990s life - at home, at school, hanging out with friends, shopping at the local Thrift Shop - where he buys vintage clothes to perfect his "Ricky" image, and working part-time at his Dad's temporary storage business. Steven longs for the rock star life of glitz and glamour and spends way too much time daydreaming about it.

Steven is a typical teen, alternately bored with his mundane life, and fascinated with the past - even learning to play the guitar like his missing "role model," rock legend, Ricky Stevenson. Ms. Brown's use of sarcasm, wit, and humor through Steven's comments and thought processes will have you chuckling, and happily turning pages to see what he'll come up with next. In addition to the mystery and rock and roll appreciation, there are plenty of lessons here for everyone to take away. And lots of daily machinations that teens are famous for: should I do this? What should I be when I grow up? Can I trust this friend/adult? What's right? What's wrong? Is the grass greener on the other side? What if??

In checking Ms. Brown's website, I was delighted to see that there is a Prequel and a Sequel to "Rock'N'Roll in Locker Seventeen" in the works, "Beyond the Music." It will be great fun to revisit Steven and his family - and journey once more into their past and forward into the next chapter. I can hardly wait to see if it will be another mystery or a slice of life in the teen world. I'm sure it will be enjoyable, humorous, and positive.

Note to parents: I found the book to be between categories: late middle-grade to early young adult (some teen drinking, unsupervised parties, some "truth withholding" and actual lying.) There no violence to speak of, drug use is referenced in the past, no sex scenes (some magazines referenced.) All in all, it is generally a good read for late middle grade students through high school.

Reviewed by:
Penelope Anne Cole
Tri-Valley Writers Conference 2017 Prose Award
San Mateo County Fair Short Story Award 2017
Award Winning Author of Matthew Matthew, Magical Mea,
Magical Mea Goes to School, Magical Max and Magical Mickey, and
Magical Max and Magical Mickey’s Big Surprise
In and Out, All ‘Round About—Opposite Friends
What’s for Dinner? and ¿Q vamos a comer?
For Halloween:  Ten Little Tricksters and Diez pequeños bromistas
New:  My Grandma and Me Coloring Book
Coming Soon:  My Grandma’s Pink House

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