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Book Review: Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

Teen librarian true confession: I have been in a reading funk for the past 2 weeks.  Seriously, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to start and started and stopped a lot of books. I was worried.  But in doing my check out the pub catalog rounds I stumbled across a little book called Guitar Notes by Mary Amato and it was just what I needed.  And it is just what your teens need too, let me tell you why.

“lucky, lucky me” – from Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
July 2012 by EgmontUSA 9781606841242

Our story begins at the beginning of the school year where we meet Lyla and Tripp, two souls who couldn’t seem to be more different but soon find themselves thrumming (all is explained beautifully in the book.)  Lyla is a straight A, perfectionist soon to be professional cellist.  Tripp is a lost soul who finds comfort in nothing but his guitar, which his mother has taken away.

The two struggling souls sign up for a lunch time slot in the school music room to practice and end up having the same room on opposite days; she gets the even days and he gets the odd ones.  Annoyed when Tripp leaves some trash behind, Lyla leaves him a snarky note.  Tripp, of course, can only respond with his own unique brand of snark.  Soon, the two of them are leaving each other notes in the guitar case (see where the title comes from there?) and forming a unique friendship.  As the two begin to bond through their music, they take a magical journey of healing and self discovery – until life rears its ugly head and threatens to silence them both.

“Dear Odd Day Musician,
We are sharing this room. Please remove your trash from the music stand when you are done. Thanks.
– The Even Day Musician” – page 28

So let me tell you everything that is amazing about this book:

This is a beautifully written and engaging story about two teens learning, growing, and bonding over music.  It is a testament to music, self discovery, self expression, and learning how to be true to yourself.  Some of the book is written as notes, some as texts and e-mails, and some as short, traditional lay-out chapters.  It is an engaging story that is quick and easy to read, but does not sacrifice content, character development, thought or language for style or format.

“I just want to know, does playing the cello make you happy?” – page 66

Tripp and Lyla are such well thought out and admirable teen characters.  Lyla begins our story laying in bed almost paralyzed with the fear and stress that comes from having to be perfect, and she quite literally begins to blossom as she sets aside that which has been pressed upon her and embraces that which speaks to her soul.  And Tripp is a charismatic young man with deep thoughts about life and music, yet he has a fun, snarky, sarcastic wit (I love that he refers to his mother as The Termite in his head).

“Sometimes I imagine my cello exploding. And sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, and my own face looks like a mask to me.” – page 125

Tripp and Lyla develop a slow building, intimate friendship and musical partnership that may or may not eventually develop into something more, and that something more doesn’t matter.  This is just truly a beautiful friendship and musical partnership.  In ways they save each other, but they are also saving themselves by being true to themselves as they learn to be honest with one another through their music.  There is no insta love, no love triangle, no star crossed lovers – just a very organic and pure relationship that stems from mutual interests and shared experiences.

“Dear Ms. Even,
The guitar is crushed, It wants to be played. Thankfully, it has me.
– Mr. Odd” – page 49
Like the characters in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I love the way that Tripp and Lyla talk about music and thrumming and resonance and how souls are drawn to one another.  There are all these fun, quirky references to physics, pomegranates and a blasty carpet and how parents think they know what is best for you but never stop to ask you who you are or what you want.
“The other day, I walked out and saw the maple tree, you know, the one in front? And the leaves were so red, I had this feeling that they were actually singing.” – page 161

This book is really clean and appropriate for all ages.  It was a refreshing and uplifting read.  At the end, I felt satisfied and inspired and just . . . moved.  Guitar Notes by Mary Amato gets 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend that all libraries add it to their collections.  Now.  Go.  I’ll wait . . . Your fans of John Green and Sarah Dessen will eat this title up.  If you loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight or If I Stay, if you love books about music, if you love contemporary teen fiction that speaks to your soul, you will LOVE this book.

“Dear Mr. Odd,
You are indeed odd.
– Ms. Even” – page 61

Be sure and check out the accompanying website, thrumsociety, for samples of music from the book and information about song writing.  In the back of the book you can find chords and lyrics to all the songs written by Lyla and Tripp.

See the book trailer here.

This is the Valentine’s Day present The Mr. and Kids made for me this year.
They didn’t know about this book, but it sure does fit.
No one in this house plays the guitar, but I love this present.
They quote e e cummings on the guitar.
If I was making a Top 10 List of teen books about music (see Stephanie Wilke’s here), Guitar Notes would go on it!


  1. Aaaand I have to read this. Great review.

  2. AAAAA! This sounds so fabulous. Kind of like IF I STAY meets GRAFFITI MOON. Both of which we loved loved loved! Thank you so much for telling us about this book. And we are glad that it snapped your slump. 😉

  3. I hope you love it like I did!

  4. The slump had me worried. I love If I Stay, but I haven't read Graffiti Moon – I'll have to put it on my TBR list so thanks for the rec!

  5. How have I not even heard of this book?! I too am a teen librarian and have experienced the reading slump you've described here. It's just one of the worst feelings. As a total lover of music related books, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this – thanks for the great review (as always!)

  6. Monica, if you love music books I truly believe you will love this title. And the reading slump is the worst! Thanks for reading and commenting, I hope you love the book as much as I do.

  7. This sounds so awesome! My undergrad is in Music Ed. so I always love coming across these books….

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  8. luv the book

  9. Anonymous says:

    i read the book, it's great

  10. anonymous says:

    this book is fantastic!! I love music, and i couldn’t find that right book that met my interests, and was educational, but now I have, and i loved this book.

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