My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Carson Mastick is determined to win his high school’s Battle of the Bands, because the prize includes a trip to New York City … and getting off of the Tuscarora reservation is part of his major plan. The problem is, he doesn’t have a band.
Maggi Bokani’s mother has brought her and her siblings back to the reservation, and she’s miserable. But she has a new job … and a crush on one of the guys she works with.
The book is told in first person, alternating between Carson and Maggi’s point of view. So, we see the result of Carson’s older brother confronting a racist restaurant owner, and Maggi’s concern for her sister, among other issues, through their eyes.
The entire book takes place in 1980. As one of Carson’s friends is a huge Beatles fan, the band starts by learning their covers. Each chapter has a title from John Lennon’s work … as does the book. It is no great surprise that the entire thing culminates with Lennon’s assassination, by which time numerous subplots have come together and we see the hero’s journey that both Maggi and Carson have been experiencing. No one is unchanged by the end of this book.
Frankly, I think this is book takes a good look at the challenges faced by people of color. Carson is light-skinned and able to “pass” (he calls himself a ChameleIndian) but not all of his friends and family are … and so he’s keenly aware of being treated differently by the white kids at his school. He’s seen as an insider while others are part of an out group — and he has to face some harsh realizations throughout the tale as a result.
However, this is also a heavy tale that ends on a day that many people my age remember far too keenly (I know what I was wearing and doing on the day John Lennon died). While aimed at a YA audience, more sensitive readers may find this difficult to deal with.
Here’s the title song for you to enjoy.