Blake Nelson, . . Viking, $16.99 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-670-05933-1

In this year's best offering on the rock band life, Nelson (The New Rules of High School ) gives an entertaining and realistic insider's view, through the eyes of Pete, the son of musicians, living in the Pacific Northwest. The 17-year-old narrator plays bass in a cover band for school dances and parties. But when Pete agrees to join The Tiny Masters of Today (whose members he originally called "amateurs"), he gets caught up in the group's chaotic energy and original style. The former jazz band "geek" gets a taste of rock star life, working clubs, meeting girls—even fighting with the erratic guitar player. But Pete's a regular teen, too: he has sparse conversations with his new girlfriend (" 'Do you want to break up?' she said./ 'No. Do you?'/ 'No' ") and while they grow to love each other, the author makes clear that they are on different paths. At home, Pete jams with his widower dad in the basement, but his father goes out a lot and drinks heavily. In one heartbreaking moment, Pete recalls when he was nine and heard a tape his father made of one of his mom's concerts ("At the sound of my mother's voice I had burst into tears"). Nelson paints Pete as endearingly clueless, yet the teen proves his loyalty throughout the book—to his girlfriend, to his dad and ultimately to his music. Readers will likely lap up this look at what it's like for a band trying to make it, from the slick industry people, to the energy that comes when everything is in synch. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)