Thursday, 2 February 2012

review: DJ Rising

(This is not the cover I'm commenting on.)
by Love Maia
Little, Brown and Co., February 6, 2012
contemporary young adult
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

Marley doesn’t have a lot going for him. As a scholarship student at a rich-kid school, keeping his grades up and busing tables is the only way Marley can keep going to school—especially with his heroin-addicted mother. But the thing that keeps him going is the music, the incredible power of being behind the turntables. When an honest-to-goodness DJ job comes up, Marley leaps for it… until a tragedy hits close to home and takes him down with it.

The cover:

[Note: I got sent this cover, while Goodreads has up this one in the post. My comments are for the one I received.] The neon writing is definitely evocative of a club, and the overall colour and tone of the cover matches the novel’s. However, beyond the writing, there’s really not much of an image. Perhaps it’s to keep the details from being distracting, but it ends up looking plain.

The book:

This novel stands out from the rest of the YA music-centred pack with several distinctions: a male protagonist, a focus on mixing music rather than purely creating it, and a slightly grittier, more urban setting than, say, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez or Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly. It’s easy to feel the heart poured into this story; it’s an ode to music.

Marley has voice and humour going for him. Even before we’re informed he’s Puerto Rican and black, the narrative lets us into his bubble of perspective. It’s also fabulous to see friends who are at once flippant and supportive, and to watch the repartee between Marley’s circle and the “Haves”; although the rich-poor line is a bit too thick to feel realistic, it makes for hilarious banter:
I eye him warily as he [Todd Bitherman] places a hand on Justin’s shoulder and leers at me. “I thought you said his name was DJ Ice. What a completely idiotic name.”
I pull away my headphones and lean forward. “Well, I was thinking of going with the name DJ Todd, but I didn’t want anyone to mix us up and think I’m the one who’s the total asshole."
Oh Marley. :D

The plot is a steady, straightforward one, allowing the characters and the beautiful scenes in the clubs to take precedence. And the DJing scenes are sublime. It’s where Love Maia’s prose flows best; it spills a passion for music across the pages while offering a descriptive look behind the scenes—or rather, behind the turntables.

Otherwise, however, DJ Rising does not shine in the writing department. Characters often info-dump in conversation, and a menacing number of exclamation marks litter each chapter, accentuating the often-used clichés. Speaking of clichés, the romance definitely is one. Though the longing Marley feels for Lea Hall is realistic, the ease of their relationship is not. It grows too quickly into the dream of a perfect relationship, reminiscent of Take Me There by Carolee Dean.

Oh, but the last paragraph. It’s so lovely it makes up for the entire last summarizing chapter. (You know those summarizing paragraphs... they say "oh, I ended up with her, and my mom finally called me, and my friends all came back!") I want to quote it, but also don’t want to ruin the surprise. So… yes, I would say go ahead and read this one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5