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Book Review: Get Happy by Mary Amato

Publisher’s Description:

In this poignant, realistic, contemporary YA by a state master list star, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Gayle Forman, a young songwriter builds a substitute family with her friends in place of the broken family she grew up with.

A hip high school girl who loves music, writes songs, and is desperate for a ukulele, learns to her shock that her father did not abandon her years ago and has been trying to keep in touch. She begins to investigate him, only to discover that he has a new life with a new family, including the perfect stepdaughter, a girl who Minerva despises.

Karen’s Thoughts:

For as long as she can remember it has always been Minerva and her mother. And Minerva has but one wish – a ukulele. To make that wish come true, Minerva and her best friend get a job at the Get Happy birthday entertainment company (because her mom doesn’t understand her at all and got her another crappy cardigan for her 16th birthday – bad mom). Their job: To dress as various characters where they will sing songs and lead party games at kid parties. It is not Minerva’s dream job, but it does put cash in hand. The job is a source of much amusement and brings some very interesting people into Minerva’s life.

It turns out, however, that Minerva’s dad didn’t abandon her. He has, in fact, been trying to get in touch with her for some time. And it turns out that he is closer than she ever could have imagined. So while Minerva is trying to survive kid parties, she’s also trying to deal with a host of big emotions including the fact that her mom lied to her and then comes the major kaboom – who her dad is and the new family that he has built for himself.

Add to this mix one of the best friendships ever (I adore Fin) and a budding romance, and you have a YA title that is sure to please many, particularly the fans of authors like Gayle Forman. One of the best things about Amato is that not only does she combine music with her stories, but she writes stories that are accessible to the younger end of YA and the upper MG crowd who want to read YA but their parents may still be a little worried about the language and sex content. 

Ukelele’s are all the rage right now. In fact, the Portland Public Library now has a Ukulele lending library, which you can read about here and here. So Amato’s book would seem to have perfect timing. Add to this the fact that it has characters that resonate, very real and challenging family dynamics, and a situation that really makes you wonder about the nature of family and forgiveness, and I think we have a winner here. The ending really left me thinking about what would happen next, the different ways that could look and what I thought could and should happen. If your readers are like me, they’ll have strong feelings about it all and they’ll want to discuss, making this a perfect book discussion title.

Some song lyrics and chords are included. Definitely recommended.

Get Happy by Mary Amato will be released by EgmontUSA on October 28, 2014. ISBN: 9781606845226

More on Books, Music, Teens and Libraries
More Books and Music Here, Here, and Here
Also, check out Heather Booth’s post on What the Ukulele Taught Me about Reluctant Readers
Mary Amato previously wrote a guest post for us here at TLT on Bringing Music into Your Library
And check out how you can make Guitar Pick Jewelry
Goodreads has a list of 288 titles tagged “Music”

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Video reveal for Mary Amato’s GET HAPPY

Mary Amato (author of Guitar Notes) has a new YA coming out on October 28 – Get Happy – about a 16-year-old singer-songwriter named Minerva who is desperate for a ukulele. The story also chronicles Minerva’s painful journey to decide whether or not to reconnect with a father who left her when she was a toddler. As with her previous book Guitar Notes, Amato has written words and music for the songs that appear in the book for readers to enjoy. This time, she teamed up with young performing artist Jamey Geston ( http://www.jameygestonmusic.com/) who is recording videos of the six songs in preparation for the book’s release.

Here’s the video reveal of the song Geston just recorded. This song, called Salt, expresses Minerva’s pent-up anger at her long-lost father, a marine biologist, who wants to reconnect.

The Luna ukulele that Geston is playing in this video will be offered as a giveaway through Amato’s site. Stay tuned for the book, the music, and more at Amato’s site: www.thrumsociety.com and/or through twitter @maryamato.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpQfXNbL12c?rel=0]
About Get Happy:

In this poignant, realistic, contemporary YA by a state master list star, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Gayle Forman, a young songwriter builds a substitute family with her friends in place of the broken family she grew up with.

A hip high school girl who loves music, writes songs, and is desperate for a ukulele, learns to her shock that her father did not abandon her years ago and has been trying to keep in touch. She begins to investigate him, only to discover that he has a new life with a new family, including the perfect stepdaughter, a girl who Minerva despises.

Coming in October from EgmontUSA. Book description from publisher.

Bring the Power of Music Into Your Library: a guest post by Guitar Notes author Mary Amato for Music in Our Schools Month (March)

Although March is many things, like National Craft Month and Women’s History Month, it is also Music in Our Schools Month.  As school budgets get cut, music and education are some of the first to go, especially with today’s emphasis on STEM education.  But there are those who advocate STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.  By adding the arts, you increase creativity and innovation, along with innovation, problem solving and more.  Today, in support of music in our schools, Guitar Notes author Mary Amato writes a guest post about The Power of Music.  And for more information on how you can help Save the Music, stop by the VH1 website.

Listening to a song I love can turn around a bad day or make a great day even better. I love music, and about five years ago I made a promise to myself to actually learn how to play the guitar. Along the way, I kept imagining the powerful connection that two characters could make if they really started to share music together. That’s how Guitar Notes was born.

In the novel, a teen boy and girl challenge each other to write songs and start a duo called The Thrum Society. Instead of having the songwriting action happen “offstage,” I wanted to show them actually writing.  That meant I needed to write every song. I loved doing this. After I was done, I thought about how cool it would be for readers to hear the songs, not just see the lyrics, so I partnered up with a male musician friend, Bill Williams, and together we arranged and recorded the tracks. Readers can hear them on the book’s website: http://thrumsociety.com/.

Readers are sending me messages saying that, after reading the book, they are inspired to write their own songs. This is music to my ears! I wish more teachers would include songwriting as part of the English class curriculum, along with poetry. Students who struggle with writing or with literature can be turned on through songwriting. Lyrics use all the elements of writing that are taught in a great English class—metaphor, alliteration, rhythm, symbolism, personification, etc.—and it’s an expressive, relevant art form that gets kids exciting about writing. I’m trying to put lots of songwriting resources on the thrumsociety website to help—songwriting tip videos, a songwriting lesson plan for teachers and media specialists, blank guitar chord templates, and much more.

I would love it if teen media specialists would consider creating a “Songwriting Studio.” This could be simple: a carrel labeled For Songwriter’s with a copy of Guitar Notes and some blank songwriting journals (note to whoever puts this up…here’s the link for the blank songwriting journals). Or you could go crazy and devote a study room that contains: copies of novels that are about music, like Guitar Notes, books on songwriting, earphones, and a computer with garageband. 
Take 5: More Teen Titles About Music
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (review tomorrow)
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Elliott
If I Stay by  Gayle Forman

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee

More on Music at TLT:
The Power of Music, a guest post by Melissa Darnell
The Soundtrack of Your Books
Steph’s Take: Top 10 Titles Inspired by Music 

Does your school still have a music program? What are your favorite music themed YA titles to share with teens? And what do you think about Mary’s ideas for encouraging musical pursuits in public libraries? What ideas would you add?

Mary Amato is an award-winning children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and have won the children’s choice awards in several states.  Her book, Guitar Notes, was published by Egmont USA in July of 2012. ISBN: 9781606841242.

Win a Signed Copy of Guitar Notes AND a Luna Guitar!!!!


So, back in August, Karen wrote about her love for Guitar Notes by Mary Amato.  It was so wonderful, it made Karen’s 2012 List of Favorite Reads.  Now, Egmont USA (publishers of Guitar Notes) and Luna Guitars are coming together to give away a signed copy of Guitar Notes and a beautiful Safari travel-sized guitar and backpack case to help unleash your inner songwriter.  

Entries will be accepted January 15 through February 12.  Enter through the Luna Guitars website.

Details and rules:

The Mary Amato Safari Tattoo Contest Rules

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN PRIZE. PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. NO FEE REQUESTED OR REQUIRED TO ENTER OR WIN.

ELIGIBILITY

The Luna Gift of Music promotion is open to any citizen of planet Earth, with the following exception. Employees, officers and directors of Luna Guitars and its respective parents, subsidiaries, consultants, agents and suppliers, as well as their immediate families and persons living in the same household as such individuals, are not eligible to enter or win.

PROMOTION PERIOD

Promotion begins January 15, 2013 7AM EST and ends February 12, 2013 at 6PM EST. Winner will be announced February 15, 2013 in the TRIBE TALK newsletter from Luna and on the blog of Egmont USA children’s publisher based in Manhattan.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter the Safari Tattoo Contest, you must register at least email address, first name, and last name, using the link on the Contest Entry page. LIMIT ONE (1) ENTRY PER EMAIL ADDRESS FOR THIS PROMOTION. (Note that this will also add contestant to the TRIBE TALK subscription list.) 

WINNER SELECTION

The winner will be randomly selected betweenFebruary 12th and February 14th, 2013. If a potential winner cannot be contacted or the prize notification is returned as undeliverable, that winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner may be selected.

PRIZE

Safari Tattoo Guitar plus padded gig bag, and an autographed copy of Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

WINNER NOTIFICATION

The name and hometown of the winner shall be published February 15, 2013 in the TRIBE TALK newsletter from Luna and on the blog of Egmont USA, a children’s publisher based in Manhattan. The winner will also be contacted via his or her registered email address and be available afterward through Luna’s newsletter archive page.

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!