Perfectly pitched to fans of TV’s Glee and reality competition shows such as American Idol, The Voice, and X Factor, this musical comedy from Universal Studios opens nationally on October 5. Set in the fascinating—and surprisingly bodacious—world of collegiate a cappella singing, Pitch Perfect (PG-13) harmonizes crowd-pleasing acoustic production numbers with plenty of sassy and brassy girl-power attitude and ribald humor (hence the tagline—“Get Pitch Slapped”). A bit of a rebel, Beca (Anna Kendrick) manages to avoid the usual cliques at her new college, but soon finds herself strong-armed into becoming a member of an a cappella group and singing alongside an ensemble of young women whose diverse personalities and personal styles run the gamut. Determined to shake things up, Beca brings the group’s traditional arrangements and repertoire into the 21st century with new mash-ups of contemporary hits. Will their new sound and hot harmonies take them all the way to the championships of competitive a cappella singing? The cast also includes Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Adam Devine. Teens can visit the official movie website to view a trailer.
Read the Book
The film is inspired by Mickey Rapkin’s nonfiction title, Pitch Perfect (Gotham, 2008; Gr 10 Up), which has been re-issued with an eye-catching movie-poster cover. Spotlighting three singing groups—Divisi (12 red-tie-wearing women from the University of Oregon), the Tuft’s Beelzebubs (a celebrated male ensemble with numerous studio albums under its belt), and the Hullabahoos (“upstart bad boys” from the University of Virginia, who are almost as proud of their flag-football team as of their singing)—the author follows a year of cut-throat competition to reveal the “curious, inspiring, triumphant, hilarious, and heartbreaking story of the quest for collegiate a cappella glory.” The often laugh-aloud-funny narrative is written with both clarity and acerbic wit, describing an artistic arena where dorkdom (those matching khaki pants and snapping fingers) meets rock star fame (these performers tour internationally and inspire screaming groupies), where long-standing rivalries motivate new levels of performance (and sometimes fistfights), and where internal discord and personal drama must be overcome to achieve harmony. Along the way, Rapkin includes interesting facts about music history, amusing celebrity anecdotes, and mention of the raucous partying that seems to go part and parcel with this collegiate subculture. Movie fans and teens with an interest in the subject matter will be mesmerized by this surprisingly entertaining read.
Tales of Divas, Rockers, Virtuosos, and Other Artistes
Strike a chord with music lovers by booktalking or displaying these perfectly tuned titles about the pressures and pleasures of performing, the resonance of romances and rivalries, and the empowerment of finally figuring out how to hit all the right notes—both on and off stage.
Denise Vega’s Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order) (Little, Brown, 2012; Gr 8 Up) stars Ori Taylor, a shy 16-year-old who has long lived in the shadow of his sports-star older sibling, Del. However, get Ori behind a guitar and in front of his band (to be named later) and his innate musical genius takes over, catapulting him beyond his fears and transporting his audience to true rock nirvana. A new bass player (interestingly, a deaf musician) is finally in place and the buzz is building as the group gears up for the local Battle of the High School Bands. Unfortunately, Del, moody and self-obsessed after bombing out of college, seems determined to take the wind out of Ori’s sails, and their rivalry deepens when they both fall for the same girl. Ori’s honest first-person narrative blends humor with heartbreak, and supplementary touches (including posts from the band’s webpage, emails, and flashbacks) provide an entertaining backbeat. Readers will root for the likable protagonist, and stick with him until he finally finds his groove.
Talk about the ultimate rock ’n’ roll fantasy! In The Girl Who Became a Beatle (Feiwel and Friends, 2011; Gr 9 Up), 16-year-old Regina Bloomsbury, heartbroken over the breakup of her band, makes a bedtime wish that she were as famous as her longtime music idols. The next morning, she wakes up in an alternate reality in which she and her bandmates have actually replaced the Fab Four in music history (with the Caverns’ faces on the familiar album covers and their names in the credits). Suddenly, Regina is caught up in the dazzle of superstardom—heading off to Hollywood to open the Grammys, flirting with her hot TV-star boyfriend, and encountering screaming fans everywhere. However, there are a few glitches in this wish-fulfilled world: she feels guilty about assuming responsibility for the Beatles’ oeuvre, the members of the Caverns are fighting like cats and dogs, and she just can’t get over her crush on her bandmate Julian. Will she remain in this beguiling reality and run with her newfound fame, or return to her much more humdrum but close-to-her-heart home? Written with an upbeat tempo, Greg Taylor’s frothy fantasy is amped up with funny moments, fast-paced action, and just the right amount of soul-searching.
Beats from the Streets
Set in a much grittier reality, Love Maia’s DJ Rising (Little, Brown, 2012; Gr 9 Up) introduces Marley Diego-Dylan, a half-black/half-Puerto Rican high school junior who dreams of escaping the small inner-city apartment he shares with his heroin-addicted mother (and her never-ending succession of low-life boyfriends) and use his talent for mixing songs, juggling beats, and reinterpreting tunes to launch a career as a professional disc jockey. Despite all of the partying that goes on around him—exhibited by his close friends and the “haves” that populate the private school where he is a scholarship student—Marley keeps to the straight and narrow, working two part-time jobs, studying hard, caring for his mother, and daydreaming about his crush, who’s an out-of-reach rich girl. When a golden opportunity to spin at a local club allows him to display his amazing artistry, Marley’s hopes for the future suddenly seem closer than ever. Then tragedy strikes and he’s forced to make some tough choices, but ultimately refuses to give up his dreams. Filled with emotional high and low notes, Maia’s lyrical writing hits all of the beats, conveying not only her protagonist’s passion for the music he plays, but also his desire to connect with others and break down barriers with his beats. The author is putting together a soundtrack of both already-released and original tunes (a mix of underground hip hop, DJ mixes, R&B, mainstream, and more) relating to the characters and action, scheduled to be posted on the book’s website in February 2013, coinciding with the paperback’s publication.
Short and clearly written, Charnan Simon’s Shattered Star (Darby Creek, 2011; Gr 9 Up) is part of the “Surviving Southside” series, hi-lo novels with urban settings that focus on teens encountering tough true-life situations. A talented soloist in her high school’s glee club, Cassie Pratt dreams of a musical career but knows that paying for college will be difficult for her family. When TV’s America’s Next Star holds auditions in Houston, she decides to skip school and try out. Though the line is impossibly long, a man identifying himself as an L.A. talent scout approaches her and offers to represent her. Flattered by the attention, Cassie believes that she has a shot at fame. However, she must lie to her family, friends, and teachers to meet with him, and his requests—money for a portfolio, photos that make her look “hot”—are becoming more and more demanding. When the man forces himself on her, Cassie’s eyes are finally opened and she manages to escape. With the help of family and friends, she’s able to learn from the experience and begin to put it behind her, returning to the glee club and once again finding her true voice.
Seventeen-year-old Carmen Bianchi, a violin prodigy who has performed with symphony orchestras around the world and recorded a slew of CDs, is about to face her biggest challenge: winning the prestigious Guarneri Competition. Certainly, the last thing she planned is falling head over heels for her toughest rival, Jeremy King, a boy with irresistible dimples, a blistering talent, and a unique perspective that enables him to truly understand her world—and appreciate the joys and pressures of performing. As the big day draws nearer, Carmen struggles with her dependence on anti-anxiety medication (the pills keep her calm during concerts but make her feel removed from the music), her desire to break free from her overbearing mother and make her own decisions, and an intoxicatingly whirlwind but star-crossed relationship (does Jeremy truly like her, or is he just playing her for an advantage?). Things become more complicated when a shocking secret is revealed, and Carmen must make the most difficult decision of her life. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, Jessica Martinez’s Virtuosity (S & S, 2011; Gr 8 Up) is a masterful mix of music, romance, and coming-of-age revelations.
Once close friends and now bitter enemies, two high school seniors and Honors Choir divas prepare to compete for the top prize in a celebrated singing contest. Though the protagonists in Sara Bennett Wealer’s Rival (HarperTeen, 2011; Gr 7 Up) exist at opposite ends of the social stratosphere—Brooke is a popular A-lister from a well-off family who likes to party while Katherine comes from a middle-class home and tends to hang out with her male best friend—they both share a passion for opera, and a steely determination to win the Blackmore. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters, effectively conveying each character’s point of view. Tensions and clashes build along with the suspense as the two songstresses prepare for the competition, while flashbacks to the year before reveal the equally gripping story of their onetime friendship, and the jealousies, betrayals, and misunderstandings that caused their falling-out. Believable dialogue, multidimensional characters, thoughtfully explored emotions, and a well-crafted resolution make for a fast-paced and rewarding read.
RAPKIN, Mickey. Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. Media tie-in ed. Gotham. 2012. pap. $16. ISBN 9781592408214.
VEGA, Denise. Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order). Little, Brown. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316133104; eBook. $9.99. ISBN 9780316192453.
TAYLOR, Greg. The Girl Who Became a Beatle. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780312652593; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780312606831.
MAIA, Love. DJ Rising. Little, Brown. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12187-3; eBook. $9.99. ISBN 9780-316194563.
SIMON, Charnan. Shattered Star. “Surviving Southside.” Darby Creek/Lerner. 2011. PLB $27.93. ISBN 978-0-7613-6154-1; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9780761361688.
MARTINEZ, Jessica. Virtuosity. S & S. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442420526; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781442420533; eBook. $9.99. ISBN 9781442420540.
WEALER, Sara Bennett. Rival. HarperTeen. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780061827624; eBook. $9.99. ISBN 9780062069672.
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