My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
When I added “Guitar Boy” to my TBR pile, I remember thinking that it sounded more like a middle grade novel than a YA. That idea might have stemmed from the summary, or the knowledge that the last novel I read by M.J. Auch was one I read at fourteen and pulled from the MG section in the library. Whatever the intended audience, I finished “Guitar Boy” in a day and loved every minute of it.
Travis is a fourteen year old guitar player whose life has been turned upside down in the wake of his mother’s car accident and subsequent injuries. His father is trying and failing to run the household and keep his five children fed, and a string of bad decisions leads to him throwing Travis out of the house. Travis ends up unofficially apprenticed to a local guitar-maker while he attempts to piece his life and his family back together.
For an incredibly simple premise, this story had so much heart and so much personality. It wasn’t as much about music as it was about connection–to the family you’re born with and the family you choose. The people Travis meets when he’s isolated from everything he knows become as much a family to him as the one he’s left behind, and I loved watching those bonds strengthen as the story progresses. All of the characters in “Guitar Boy” felt authentic, like if you pulled off the interstate at some nowhere town in the Adirondacks you might encounter any of them.
Every one of the subplots tied neatly together, from the local festival Travis helps the guitar-maker prepare for, to Travis’s own missing family heirloom guitar, to his attempts to reach his mother. The links in the overall chain of events were believable and heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful.
“Guitar Boy” is the kind of book that I want to avoid talking about too specifically, because no amount of summarizing will even begin to do the story justice. If you like quieter stories with great character development and a happier ending than you might have dared to hope for, definitely give this one a read.