Jon Skovron's debut novel, the YA book Struts & Frets, is a dynamite, nuanced story about fannish love, musical obsession, first romance and true friendship. It follows the adventures of Sammy Bojar, a small-town, midwestern high-school senior who's life revolves around his band, a trainwreck of ego and conflict called "Tragedy of Wisdom." The band means everything to Sammy because music means everything to him. He frames his whole world with indie pop, seeking out authenticity with a driven, blinding passion.
Sammy's at the turning point in his life. His best male friend is coming out, his best female friend is in love with him (and it turns out it's mutual, though he didn't know it). The frontman for his band is a roiling, angry bully who is ever on the verge of physical violence. His beloved grandfather, a minor jazz legend, is sliding into incapacity as age and a hard life catch up with him.
The plot-points are all pretty standard YA set-pieces, but there's never a stale (or dull) moment in Struts & Frets. That's thanks to the incredible nuance and heart that Skovron brings to the interpersonal relationships, using these familiar emotional scenes as pivots for a deft emotional acrobatic act that is as moving as it is engrossing.
I was never a (good) musician, but I've always been passionate about music. I remember what it was like to be in the band, to be wrapped up in all the issues around creativity, friendship and identity; to seek out answers to life's big questions in music, to worry at the unanswerable questions of commercialism, success and popularity. Struts & Frets will feel instantly authentic to anyone who's ever felt the pride and shame of being an outsider.