BOOK REVIEW: Battle of the Bands (Candlewick Press)

by | Jan 4, 2022 | Reviews

Battle of the Bands
Edited by Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith
(Candlewick Press)

Brian Eno’s comment that everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground record started their own band might just also apply to readers of Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith’s Battle of the Bands.

The book, which threads together sixteen stories from top young adult writers (as well as Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Courtney Pierre), captures the ups and downs of band life in exhilarating/excruciating detail that any musician will recognize as being authentic and anyone not in a band will want to experience for themselves. From rehearsal squabbles to pre-show bonding to stage fright (and stage joy), each author gets the little details right in service of their stories.

While these stories play in both major and minor keys – first loves, breakups, friendships starting and ending, coming out, and crushes both unrequited and fulfilled – the overall vibe is that making music with other people and loving the music others make is life-changing.

In Brittany Cavallaro’s standout opener “Miss Somewhere,” a flailing transfer student finds herself again by donning her old Zildjian t-shirt and getting bombarded with drumming requests. Sarvenaz Taghavian’s clever “Battle of the Exes” details a group willing to get the plug pulled on their set to colorfully spite an awful ex. Jenny Torres Sanchez’s beautiful “A Small Light” goes in an unexpected, darker direction but ultimately shows how important finding your people can be. Like these tales, each story in the collection is a gem that adds to the whole.

All the while, Gibaldi and Smith do stellar work interweaving the stories (and contributing two of their own) to make for a cohesive piece. It’s a piece that celebrates creativity and band life – and may inspire more than a few to form their own. The battles – and the bliss – await.

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