Published by KCP Loft on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: YA Books Central
Fame. Love. Friends. Pick any two.
It was supposed to be the best summer of her life. Instead, seventeen-year-old Lucy finds her best friend, Harper, shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did things go so wrong? Their band, Crush, was once the top prospect to win an international talent contest. But things fell apart when Lucy discovered Harper’s real reasons for starting a band — which had nothing to do with music. Meanwhile, her other bandmates are throwing themselves into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Can Lucy get the rest of the girls to play to her beat?
One-part wish fulfillment, one-part cautionary tale, readers will be thrilled to go behind the scenes of “reality” TV.
Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism
Racial-Ethnic: 1 (a single Mexican man who’s hired help in a Hollywood exec’s household)
Disability: 1 (Robyn gets addicted to drugs)
Once a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom, always a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom. They can be cliche, but they can be a lot of fun if they embrace their natures or at least put a twist or two on things. Keeping the Beat initially left a positive impression on me when I first finished reading it. Thinking on it now, however, I’m less impressed with its story.
Excluding the prologue, chapter one sees the girl group Crush brought together by Harper, the intensely ambitious American girl Lucy goes to school with in Great Britain. They used to be best friends, but then there was that whole car crash deal when Harper drove drunk to impress a guy and Lucy got injured because of it. Now Harper is reaching out again and Lucy is willing to defy her strict parents for the chance at musical stardom Harper offers.
The rest of the chapter introduces the other three members of their group: Toni, Robyn, and Izabella. Then we get to enjoy timeskip of six months between chapters one and two, with chapter two beginning at the semifinals of musical competition show Project Next. Five girls who were barely getting along the previous chapter are suddenly Total Besties and desperately hoping they’ll be chosen as one of the bands sent to the US to compete in the finals.
Though the timeskip is understandable, readers don’t get to see how the girls bonded and became friends (admittedly, with certain pairs getting along better than others). It may not have been a bad idea for this standalone to be split into a duology where book one covers their journey to the UK semifinals and book two covering their time in the US.
It would drag the story out much longer to do so, yeah, but it would be worth it to watch them really come together as a girl group and as friends. The lack of emotional connection to the girls in this character-driven novel creates a serious lag in pacing. Only at the end do these characters really feel like people, but it takes one character almost dying and another actually dying to finally make you care about what happens to them.
Also, all of the girls’ storylines have guys as a major component? Toni’s, Harper’s and Iza’s storylines are 100% about the guys they’re falling for. Robyn and Lucy at least have something else going on in addition to guys (Robyn gets put on diet pills and gets addicted, Lucy is trying to keep the band together), but following five different romances in one novel is a bit much, especially when the novel’s midsection lingers in these static romances for so long. With such homogeneous storylines, it’s no wonder the middle of the book is so weak!
For having so many characters, the cast is just as homogeneous in both identity and personality. For instance, Robyn and Toni are so poorly defined as individuals that I regularly mixed the two up. Lucy is the sole exception who gets strong characterization, but even then, she’s too perfect to be interesting. She’s a gifted drummer who can actually Make It without Crush, she’s the common sense and leader of the group, she’s attracted the interest of her musical idols… Her one flaw of being a bit of a pushover gets corrected in the end.
Both authors have years of experience in the entertainment industry and you can really feel it in these pages. That makes it even more unfortunate that the weakness of the characters distracts from what might be barely fictionalized situations they actually witnessed. It’s one of those rare novels where I’d recommend reading a set number of pages per day–say, 75–to avoid becoming fatigued with the story.