Saturday, March 15, 2008

Born to Rock

Just look at that cover. Who wouldn't want to read a book with a baby sporting a mohawk on the cover? It's the kind of image that guarantees a good read. When I have my dream job selecting cover art for books, I will be on the lookout for baby mohawk pictures.

So, Born to Rock by Gordon Korman was as funny and enjoyable as that baby in his mohawk suggested it might be. It's been far too many years since I've read GK. I first discovered him way back in the day when he published the MacDonald Hall series. I'd heard great things about Son of the Mob and No More Dead Dogs but for some reason I never got around to reading those. Born to Rock I picked up and read in one afternoon. I laughed out loud and got some strange looks. But I didn't care.

Born to Rock opens with former Young Republican and future Harvard student, Leo Carraway explaining that he never thought he'd be the victim of a cavity search, yet here he is. Yes, that's right: cavity search. Luckily, Leo never goes into extreme detail of this less than stellar moment in his life though the rest of the book tells the tale of how he got there. Let's rewind a bit. Leo, at the end of his senior year in high school, is set to conquer the world. Full ride scholarship to Harvard, anyone? Unfortunately Leo loses his scholarship over a misunderstanding in which he is accused of cheating on a test. He didn't cheat but since he refuses to throw a fellow student under the bus, he gets the rap. Suddenly he needs 4oK for one year's tuition and no way to get it. But as it turns out Leo is the result of his mother's one night stand with a famous punk rocker, King Maggot. For years Leo has wondered who his bio-dad is. It was a shock to learn that his "dad," the man married to his mum, isn't his actual father, and for years Leo has wondered about the "genetic hitchhiker" in his blood--the one that seems to drive him to do un-Republican things like pitch a fit every now and again. And when he finds out that his bio-dad is King Maggot, punk icon, Leo almost loses his lunch. However, punk icons have money and King Maggot is set to go on a reunion tour with his groundbreaking (but now middle-aged) band. Leo snags a position as a roadie for the band after a hilarious scene in which he reveals his identity as "Prince Maggot" during a crowded press conference. (Leo winds up in the garbage, literally. King Maggot's body guards toss him out after Leo makes his scene.) But after a DNA test is taken, the results of which will take six weeks, Leo joins the tour as a roadie. He figures after he and the King bond, he can ask for tuition money.
Leo is the least likely young man to join a touring punk rock show. He's more responsible than the King or any of the other roadies or the loathsome Bernie, band manager, womanizer and cousin to King Maggot. Leo's best friend, a goth girl named Melinda, with whom he has always had a tulmutous relationship is seething with jealousy. She and her friend, Owen, a clueless but sweet guy (who happens to be the one implicated in the cheating brouhaha) decide to follow the band from town to town, sleeping in the sad campgrounds with fellow punk fans while Leo enjoys the good life in fancy hotels. But the punk life ain't all it's cracked up to be. Watching the conservative Leo try to manage living on a punk tour is a treat. Slowly the buttoned-down Leo lets his hair down though he never quite loses his conservative roots, even if the Young Republicans ousted him from their ranks after his cheating disaster.
This book was both funny and touching, a fast, fun read in which Leo begins to understand his true feelings for Melinda, comes to despise Owen a little less, and begins to make a bond with his unusual bio-dad. Gordon Korman hasn't lost his touch.

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