Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.
Battle of the Bands feels a lot like a chain story where one author wrote a scene and then the next author had to write another scene and so forth. I’ve never read a short story collection that was both short story collection and a complete story all at once, and it was really interesting. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I felt certain stories to be stronger than others. Sometimes they flowed really well from one story to the next, and sometimes they didn’t.
One thing I think the book did excellently was maintain the atmosphere and the setting. Each story buzzes – some with anticipation, some with excitement, some with simple relief. In that way, the mood remained consistent and it was more difficult to set the book down after a single story.
Battle of the Bands falters a little in its character work and complexity. There are a lot of different band names to remember, a lot of different character names, and a lot of different relationships. By about three-quarters through, I found myself pausing and asking myself, “Was the drummer from the first story in that band?” and “Is that the ex of the sister of the guy in gym?” and so forth. The threads get a little tangled here because there are so many POVs. There was also a section in the middle where stories started to blur. Protagonists were starting to seem cookie-cutter, and the quick plot was always “get to know this person you’ve never come across before and kiss them before the end of the story”. Romance, in general, is the main plot of all these stories. Which is fine, but six times in a row with very similar story arcs can be repetitive.
Not all of the stories felt well self-contained. I think there’s a tricky balance to be had when trying to write something like this where the stories are supposed to both stand on your own and further an overall plot. The planning of the book must have been complicated, and I can respect that. There were some stories here that were excellent! I really liked Merch Ado About Nothing, Miss Somewhere, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, All These Friends and Loves, and The Sisterhood of Light and Sound in particular.
Listen, for all my technical droning and and poking at the chaos of the book, I also need you to know… this book is super fun. There is so much energy in it and it’s so easy to get invested because you want to know who’s going to win the Battle but also because every single author does such an amazing job of building excitement the same way as if you were actually there. My high school didn’t have a Battle of the Bands, but it was so easy to imagine all these things were happening there. It was easy to fall into the overall interconnected story.
So it’s not perfect, but it’s also… pretty great. Considering the breadth of the topic here and how neatly the web was woven, there’s not much that can be done about all the names and characters. If you let yourself go and take it slowly, it’s astounding what the authors did so well here – they’ve all worked together to bring this world to life and the book is incredibly unique. I recommend it to anyone who likes YA, romance, and/or music. It’s a quick, fun read and worth the delve.
Graphic: Gaslighting, Toxic relationship, and Homophobia
Moderate: Alcohol, Domestic abuse, Violence, and Infidelity