Thursday, 27 October 2011

Asturias by Brian Caswell

Young Adult novel.

Asturias explores a tragic time in Spanish history and the painful past of a family while hitting the pulse of what it is like to be a youth and delivering an engaging narrative of the rise and fall of a teenage band. It offers all the elements that draw you in, a narrative from different points of view. Accurate writing of characters from an adult writer that still knows what it feels like to be a teenager, the excitement that stories about fame always have for us non-famous folk. The dark and sorrowful tale of his grandfather, his grandfather’s brother and they women who loved them during the Spanish civil war is also woven into the narrative, providing a counterpoint to the problems in the main narrative. The haunting beauty of the single supernatural element of the story (that the main character Alex was taught to play guitar by the spirit of his grandfather's dead brother) somehow does not detract from the narrative, but feels perfect, somehow right.

In the book, all of the stars deal with their own personal battles, and while it is maybe a little coincidental that they all start to happen at the same time, it makes sense with the pressures of fame, and shows us that no one is perfect. Also as mostly adolescent characters, some of the issues they go through are things that any adolescent might deal with- drugs, family problems, finding out your best friend may be in love with you, etc., so for the teenage reader, these may be issues that resonate with them.

I'm actually reading this book for the second grime now, after picking it up earlier this year, and I find myself just as engaged in the story as I was the first time. For me, being able to read the book again is definitely a good sign, as most books I read once, unless I really like or identify with something in the narrative. This book is definitely a read-again book for me, which means it must be good!

More stories about the rise and fall of teenagers in a band:

The Runaways, movie. Warning to parents/ younger children. There are sex and a lot of drug use in this film. A group of teenage girls are chosen to form the first real female rock band. Based on the true story of the rock band, written by lead singer, Cherie Currie.

Cherokee Bat and The Goat Guys, Francesca Lia Block. In her beautiful way of melding magic with reality, Francesca Lia Block tells the story of Weetzie's daughters and their boyfriends who start a band and become successful with the aid of magical totems, but soon find their fame is tearing their close knit relationships apart.

(This book is now usually in a collection of two Weetzie Bat stories called Goat Girls, or the full anthology, called Dangerous Angels. If you want to know more about the Weetzie Bat books, see this post.)  

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