Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylisa Larsen

Published by Clarion Books

Summary:  Nick, Lily, Jake, Cassie, and Mac all have problems at school and at home, but twice a week they get to forget about all that and just play music in their incredible Jazz Lab with Mr. Lewis.  But when Mr. Lewis is mysteriously absent just as the school board is amping up to make serious budget cuts, the five eighth-graders fear that they will lose their beloved group.  With the help of Quagmire, a troublemaker who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, they embark on a series of increasingly outrageous actions to get the adults around them to listen–and not just about Jazz Lab.  A bittersweet plot twist near the end helps solidify them as a group and makes them even more confident about speaking up for what is important.  272 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  As you may know, I do love a good band story, and this one has an empowering message and a great cast of characters with issues that many middle schoolers will relate to.  The multiple points of view and short chapters make this a quick and engaging read that will appeal to reluctant and avid readers alike.  I found it hard to put down and zipped through it in just a couple of days.

Cons:  While I applaud the author for not neatly tying up all the loose ends in the final chapters, I was still wishing for a happy resolution for Cassie.

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