They used to be two peas in a pod. Being inseparable from Brianna made a lot of things easier, including navigating middle school with lethal food allergies. Her friend is the reason why Nina was able to avoid sitting at the table reserved for others like her – other students with food allergies, who presence at said table labelled them as pariahs of sorts.
Then Brianna goes to Italy and doesn’t call Nina upon her return – the first sign that something has gone wrong. And it takes very little time for Nina to find out that she has been replaced by the seemingly worldlier and cooler Shelby as Brianna’s best friend. Nina is left bereft and angry, struggling to find her place at school. She comes to realize that the friendship she thought was helping her have a life might have actually been holding her back, and Nina’s wings finally start unfolding… taking her straight on stage as the female drummer of the school’s newest and soon to become very popular rock band.
My Year of Epic Rock is a sweet coming of age story, incomplete perhaps in that it offers a look into only one of the many steps the character will have to take to fully come of age. But this does not take away much from the book; in fact, it adds to the story, in that its relative simplicity allows for some digging that is deeper than what is often seen books of this genre. Author Andrea Pyros chose to not stuff too much into this title, instead focusing on one very simple plot line which allowed her to delve into the emotional complexities of the situation.
There are many reasons why we might lose a best friend. At whatever age this happens, and for whatever reason, it is a very difficult, sometimes traumatic event to endure. This particular situation of being replaced for a “better model” is particularly painful in that it stabs us in our deepest and more painful insecurities. Trying to no avail to fix the problem adds salt to the wound. Nina has to deal with it all, setting the stage for what could have become a soap opera for young adults.
But Pyros chooses another path to resolve the situation, creating a realistic story in many ways. First and foremost, none of the characters in the story, even Brianna herself, is demonized. This is one of the major strengths of the book, which gives a message of hope through empowerment. Rather than resorting to shenanigans of the lower nature to either get back into Brianna’s graces or to get back at her former best friend, Nina is helped to open her mind to the possibility of not only being friends with Brianna, but to an entire group of individuals. There is pain and anger befitting the situation, but there is no negativity. Nina manages to move on while not seeking recourse to prevalent patterns in society that create, maintain, and even add oil to the drama fire.
Hopefully, more books about Nina will be written in the same vein – realistic, optimistic, and exploring approaches different than what is commonly seen in mainstream media. Each could delve into one of the many aspects of a preteen’s life, adding a layer of complexity to the process of building a solid foundation to a healthy life, and creating a rich collection that would inspire young adults and adults alike to not go with the flow.