The Backups: A Summer of Stardom

Imprint. Apr. 2021. 224p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250153944; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781250212597.
Gr 7 Up–Three Brooklyn Performing Arts High School juniors land the gig of a lifetime. Jenni, a fat white aspiring singer; Lauren, a Black cellist with a tendency toward perfectionism; and Maggie, an Asian drummer, accustomed to the sexism of the heavy metal scene, will be singing backup on pop star Nika Nitro’s tour. However, lengthy rehearsals, constant criticism, and the lingering effects of pretour drama make this dream job more like a nightmare. Plus, Nika’s no-dating policy hampers a burgeoning romance between Jenni and former boy-band star Tommy Vincent. On the first stop, in Miami, the girls agree to a musical grudge match with Maggie’s favorite metal band right before their first official tour show. Will the Backups successfully harness their musical talents—and make it back in time for Nika’s show? Readers will cheer on the Backups as they find their creative footing, stand up to poison-tongue haters, and forge a fierce friendship. Stylized, clean-lined art focuses on characters over backgrounds and conveys an upbeat tone that matches the pop music vibe. With the book focusing primarily on tour preparation and depicting only the first tour stop, some will wonder whether there is an intended sequel. Though the premise of a pop singer hiring inexperienced high school students strains credulity, readers likely won’t mind. The cast is diverse in terms of ethnicity, body type, and LGBTQIA+ identities, and de Campi explores relevant issues, such as body-shaming and bullying.
VERDICT Come for the wacky shenanigans; stay for the heartfelt friendships. Ideal for teen pop enthusiasts.

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