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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Guitar Highway Rose* by Brigid Lowry - young adult book review

Also by Brigid Lowry:

Follow the Blue


Guitar Highway Rose
by Brigid Lowry
Young adult 208 pages St. Martin's Griffin January 2006 Paperback    

Guitar Highway Rose identifies itself as “a novel” on the front cover, as though trying to offer assurance to the reader. Anyone browsing the text in a bookstore or a friend’s house might be forgiven for needing that reassurance.

A look through Brigid Lowry’s tale of teenage rebellion and parental confusion makes it at first seem as though the novel were ripped from the author in embryonic outline. Segues and connecting scenes are absent. Different scenes and points of view are starkly divided from each other mid-page by headings in capital letters that read like an author’s outline-- “WHAT EVERYONE DID FRIDAY NIGHT”, “MEET MALVINA”, notes “From LIVING WITH TEENAGERS”. There are some deep and rather beautiful moments that seem to be awaiting further development. And, from the start, the conflict between the Rosie of the title and her family and her boyfriend, Asher, and his new life, is enough to make the story worth reading… just until the style settles down.

But the narrative never does settle down.  Instead, it takes off.  The unusual pattern of brief exchanges, stream of consciousness ramblings, and sudden perspective shifts soon take on the flowing rhythm of the best narrative poetry.  By the time Rosie and Asher officially meet, the constant exposure of their most intimate lives has created a voyeuristic thrill that standard prose format can’t match.  More importantly, the intimacy with and insights into every character that come with Lowry’s constantly shifting viewpoints lend urgency to every aspect of the story.  It soon becomes imperative to know not just if Rosie and Asher will work out their lives, but if Asher’s mother, Malvina, will find true love, if Rosie’s parents will overcome their midlife crises, even if the highly unpleasant Mrs. Hyde will realize the folly of her diet.

Lowry’s adherence to plain, even conversational English keeps her experimental tendencies from becoming pretentious.   It’s easy for author and reader to forget, reading about yet another comfortably middle-class couple having a rather dull breakup, that for the parties involved such things are never dull.  Lowry’s immersion in point-of-view narration gives the drama the human weight and personal  immensity that breaks away from the daily routine.  The immediacy of her storytelling also frees her from that bane of young adult literature, The Message.  There’s no moral here to stun readers into shock and callousness, just the story of two teenagers and their families.

Guitar Highway Rose is a challenge that becomes a seduction, a tale of hard times with surprising sweetness.   With sincerity, humor, and an optimism that never feels forced, Lowry delivers a tale that often surprises but never disappoints.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Sarah Meador/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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