Get Happy

Mary Amato. Egmont USA, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60684-522-6
Amato (Guitar Notes) delves into contemporary issues—living with a single parent, searching for an unknown father, finding unexpected romance—in this music-based novel set in the Chicago suburbs. Opening on songwriter/musician Minerva Watson’s 16th birthday, when she is disappointed by not receiving the ukulele she has been openly craving, Amato’s story suffers from a lack of both tension and forward momentum. Even the plot device of Minerva and two male friends winning jobs to perform as Disney-like characters at birthday parties doesn’t go anywhere. Minerva’s loving (though clueless and conflicted) mother is well drawn, but the boys—and Minerva’s relationships with them—are too good to be true. Coworker Cassie (“A tall, gorgeous girl, a cross between a young Halle Berry and Rihanna, but totally natural”) is free of defects, and a revelation about her identity feels gratuitous. Amato’s choice to have Minerva learn about her past via overheard arguments is also a lost opportunity for dramatic confrontation. An unexpected climax leads to a realistic, if not entirely satisfying, finish. Back material includes songs with lyrics and chords. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/25/2014
Release date: 10/28/2014
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