The Music and the Mirror

Garage bands, first kisses, damaged friendships; it’s a successful mixture. ALL TOGETHER NOW (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 192 pp., $12.99; ages 10 to 14), from the acclaimed comics creator Hope Larson, tackles all these matters and extra in a narrative that feels contemporary, and shall be instantly relatable to a center grade viewers.

“All Together Now” acts as a sequel to Larson’s 2018 graphic novel “All Summer Long,” but it surely works completely properly as a stand-alone e book.

Bina, an eighth-grade singer-songwriter, desires to begin a band. So far, the fliers she posted round her Los Angeles center college have netted just one member: Darcy, a Brooklyn transplant and immediate greatest buddy who performs keyboard. Together, Bina and Darcy recruit a drummer named Enzo, a sensible, shy boy with “cute nerd vibes” who convinces them to vary the band’s identify from Fast Fashion to the Candids.

Bina quickly turns into a 3rd wheel in her personal band, as Darcy and Enzo begin courting and wish to transfer the band in an edgier route. When Bina realizes she’s dropping her new greatest buddy, her band and her songs suddenly, she struggles to seek out her genuine voice.

The motion in “All Together Now” is partaking and fast-paced. Bina takes revenge on her former bandmates (now calling themselves AC/Darcy) in epic vogue and the novel culminates in a possibility to play a gig at GBGB, an all-ages efficiency venue behind the native GalaxyBurger.

Subtly woven via these plot factors is Bina’s journey as an artist. Larson by no means speaks right down to her viewers; she provides Bina’s dedication to her songwriting nice respect. Guided by supportive household and buddies, Bina comes to grasp that inventive success could not occur on a handy timeline. As her neighbor Charlie (the sister of her childhood buddy Austin) places it, Bina is “a late bloomer. Or, uh, an at-your-own-speed bloomer.” Finding your genuine voice takes time and endurance.

Bina’s father, a painter, provides recommendation whereas he’s engaged on a canvas: “It’s a mess right now, but sooner or later, it’ll come together.” Bina’s mom takes her on a spur-of-the-moment tenting journey to Joshua Tree. It’s a lesson in the advantages of urgent “pause” and permitting your self the time to seek out inspiration in the wider world.

The significance of taking one’s time additionally shines via in the relationships between Bina and her buddies. Bina finds herself on an sudden date with Austin. The outing is awkward, however nuanced and complicated in its awkwardness. As they sit holding fingers, a string of questions runs via her thoughts: “Do I need up to now him? I don’t know! What’s incorrect with me? How can I not know that?!”

Like songwriting, relationships are sophisticated and troublesome to navigate, and Bina comes to just accept that there’s no set timeline for love, both. As she finally tells Austin: “I think maybe I want to date you one day, but right now? I just can’t.”

Larson gently reminds her readers — at an age the place it might probably really feel like friends’ relationships are shifting at lightning pace — that there’s no rush. Music is Bina’s nice love proper now, and that’s simply high quality.

Larson’s paintings is crisp and daring; completely suited to her story and characters. Like the artwork in “All Summer Long,” it’s monochromatic, counting on graphic blocks of black, white and shades of dusty mauve. The characters themselves are numerous in race, physique form and sexual orientation.

The visible portrayal of Bina’s love of music, and her pleasure in dropping herself in the inventive course of, is very great.

Losing and discovering oneself is central to the e book and its characters. All of us are imperfect; we make errors and lose ourselves alongside the method. With time, endurance and honesty, we will admit them and develop.

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