________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 38 . . . . June 4, 2010


Rock Star. (Orca Soundings).

Adrian Chamberlain.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
114 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-235-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-236-1 (hc.).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Beth Wilcox.

** /4


Most of my friends are into stuff like video games, science fiction books, Star Wars, Star Trek—even the old-school Star Trek shows from the 1960s. Things like that.

I used to be into all that stuff too. I really liked the old-school Star Trek. I could talk for hours about the Vulcans and Spock and all. My best friend Jason and I have this joke—if you can call it a joke. We’d always point a finger at each other and yell, ‘Warp drive!’ Warp drive means the faster-than-light way the Star Trek spaceship travels through space after nuclear war destroyed planet Earth. I don’t know why we would say something so stupid and uncool to each other. I guess we thought it was funny.


The high interest/low vocabulary “Orca Soundings” novel, Rock Star, by Adrian Chamberlain, tells the story of Duncan McCann’s brief experience as a bass guitar player in a heavy metal garage band called Primal Thunk. Duncan’s story contains many typical characteristics (and clichés) of Young Adult novels. Raised by his father following his mother’s death, Duncan has a desire for popularity that leads him to betray his longtime, nerdy best friend Jason when he tries to fit in with his cool band mates. Duncan realizes the error of his ways when he wakes up alone, hung-over, and covered in vomit after drinking heavily during Primal Thunk’s first gig at a house party. His behavior at the party ends his budding relationship with clarinetist Jennifer, who had accompanied him to the gig, and marks the end of his career as a bass player. Duncan quits the band, apologizes to Jason, and the two friends form a new band, one in which Jason plays bass and Duncan plays the organ.

     Duncan narrates his story in a naive style that at times seems repetitious (including the overuse of the term “cool”) and flat. In the first third of the novel, Duncan focuses a great deal of the narration on moderately obtrusive introductions to various aspects of his life, such as when his father calls him and Duncan thinks, “You’d think I was twelve or something, not fifteen. I’m in grade ten. School’s not my favourite thing, to tell you the truth. Mostly it’s boring. Some days I even hate it.” His story contains many stereotypical adolescent problems: tension in his relationship with his parent, reservations about his single parent’s new partner, attempts to form romantic relationships, his desire to be cool, his shame and embarrassment when his friends and himself are “uncool” etc. While this may reflect the unsophisticated writing style of some adolescent writers, in the context of this novel, the somewhat disjointed first-person narration does not feel completely authentic.

     Although the first person narration often seems stilted, the story really develops, and Duncan becomes more of a complex and realistic character once his dad’s new girlfriend, Terry, begins to teach him about soul music and the Hammond B-3 organ. Terry nurtures Duncan’s interest in the organ by introducing him to her brother, Houston. Houston was a professional organist in a soul band that regularly preformed in Victoria where the story is set. The stress of being a professional musician was too much for Houston; he quit his band and became reclusive. However, Houston is willing to teach Duncan how to play the organ. The author’s own background as an organ player in a soul and rhythm-and-blues band gives this aspect of the novel originality and depth and somewhat counteracts the cliché approach to parents, dating, popularity and friendship found in other parts of the story.


Beth Wilcox is a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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