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June 27, 2010

Garage Band


Let's talk about this book, because it's one of my favorite things that First Second has ever published.

(Anyone who's ever asked me about this book has heard this diatribe before, but for the sake of everyone else, here we go.)

Teenagers today are under a huge amount of pressure to succeed all the time.  It turns out that if you want to get a good job, go to a good college, basically to be a successful adult individual, it is oftentimes not enough to get moderately good grades and be a good person.  There are now fewer jobs than ever, and less financial aid to help out with college tuition, and when people look at a teenager and think, 'why this one?' there are queues of other people with equally superb qualifications for them to look at as well. 

So: not only do you have to be in the top 10% of your class, with no disciplinary record of any sort, no underage drug use or arrests for vandalism, not even a detention, but you also have to be the starter on your high school basketball team (and it'd be better if you went to all-state, honestly), and a musical prodigy (preferably on a rare instrument, like the bassoon; there'll be fewer bassoonists), volunteering for Habitat for Humanity every summer since you were fourteen, and aren't you doing something else on top of that?  Running your own internet business?  Starting up a program that helps impoverished inner-city children learn to read?  You mean you're not the international expert on the conditions for children in Afghanistan?

Well, then.  Why would we want you?

Teenagers everywhere are being told that they have to succeed excellently on every possible front of their lives to have a chance at success in their future lives.  Bomb your SATs because your girlfriend broke up with you the night before?  Break your leg and miss a summer of volunteer work?  Can't find anyone to publish your first novel, written at age 15?  Come on, seriously.  After that, there is no hope for you. 

Garage Band is about four teenagers who pretty much fail at this version of life.  (Though they do have the assortment of adult figures who wander around expecting their teenagers' lives will crash into the sea at any moment.)  It's a book about four guys who spend pretty much all their time having extremely good intentions but regardless messing up in just about the worst ways possible. 

And you know what? 

At the end of the book, no great tragedies occur.  There is no, 'so you are not going to college and had to give up your practice space and didn't take that record deal: now all your dreams are ruined.'  There is not a lesson about a single road to success that results from behaiving perfectly all the time. 

In fact, it looks like there's a reasonable chance they'll all be just fine.  They've still got a chance to achieve their dreams, and they're taking it.

I'm good with that. 


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I love this book! Thanks for reviewing it :)

Any chance that other Gipi's books will be published ?Like LDVM etc. tks

Gina--This review resonates with me as well, and I can't wait to get my hands on this book! I teach a course in the English Department at Rhode Island College on Youth Cultures, and I would love to scope this book out for use in that class. Thank you!

I love this book and have bought it for several people. LOVE it. I hope First Second will publish more Gipi books besides this and Notes for a War Story. . .there's no one doing what he's doing in American comics.

Gina, I think you just sold me on this book! I am in college and I think about this every single day: not succeeding. I'm in art school studying comic books, and I cannot tell you how resonating this post was for me. So thanks :)

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