Summary: Alya is part of a b-girl group when she is approached with a life-changing offer to be a part of a new singing group called EnChantay. But even though everyone encourages her to jump at the opportunity and the group itself is full of potential, Alya quickly learns that being in show business requires huge sacrifices and isn’t all it seems to be. Interactions with a fellow EnChantay group member help Alya clarify what she really wants from life, but working up the courage to be true to herself takes reflection, time and a certain amount of guts.
Number of Pages: 219
Age Range: 13-15
Review: A companion book to Break On Through, Rhythm and Blues tells about an experience in Hydra Force member Alya’s life that leads her to embrace who she is and to stand up for herself.
Jill Murray writes about strong, talented, inspiring female characters who think for themselves and have the courage to act on what they believe is right. They are real people who make mistakes, but their level of self-awareness allows them not to make the same mistakes twice and to step up when they need to.
Rhythm and Blues explores the subject of discovering an important piece of a teen’s identity. When Alya is able to be honest with herself about being a lesbian, the realisation changes her. By the end of the novel she isn’t quite ready to tell her family yet, but she does make choices to protect herself and her ambitions. I wished Alya’s realisation wasn’t the result of her attraction to Ange, a teen girl who was only using her though. I cared about Alya and wanted better for her.
But mostly, it was just an interesting and fun read. It was kind of like reading Dumb Luck by Lesley Choyce, a story about a teen winning the lottery and how things really turn out after that happens. Alya’s story is all about what some teens think they want when they’re young, fame and fortune. The opportunity is handed to her because of her looks and a little bit because of her talent. Murray takes an unlikely situation and brings realism into it, except her resolution to the story isn’t as bleak as Choyce’s. I quite enjoyed her exploration of the true cost of fame and the secrets behind it, especially in the case of Bershawn.
Murray is a thoughtful and engaging writer that I hope to read again soon.
“But training can betray you, too. I had so much of it behind me, it was all my life amounted to: a training life. Like a honestly believed that if I practiced enough, I’d get to have a real one someday – if I was ever ready to take off the extra training wheels or pull out the padding.” – Alya from Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray, pages 1-2
“And even if it meant waking up in that dorm, I liked the feeling of getting up in the morning and going to work, dancing, singing – performing with my whole body, my brain, and my heart – even if all three of them took a serious beating on alternating days.” – Alya from Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray, page 122
“It’s just business, it’s just business, it’s just business. The now-familiar refrain ran through my mind on repeat, and a single question rose above it: If business was just business, music was just business, and life was just business, what was left? Why did anyone bother doing business in the first place?” – Alya from Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray, page 182
“I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. What had happened to Alya who was always ahead? The one everyone said had so much potential? That Alya would never have followed Ange into that club and swallowed all those shots like she was Alice in Wonderland. Eat me. Drink me. Kiss me. If Angelique had been a guy, the old Alya would have told her, Bite me.” – Alya from Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray, page 191
“‘I think what Alya’s trying to say – ‘ my mother started.
But I already knew what I was trying to say. I loved performing, but I also loved life – real life – my family, my friends, the Hydra Force, the stinky b-boy van, all the summer reading I hadn’t done for Rosewood, my own style, my own strengths. On its own, each of those things sounded like a tiny detail, but I realized that what it all added up to was that I wasn’t like Angelique, who only wanted to be famous, or Julie, who only wanted to make music, or RJ, who only wanted to be ‘hot.’ I didn’t want only one thing. I wanted all of those things, and a life, and my own ideas. And if wanting all of them meant I could only have a tiny piece of each one, or could only have them one at a time, or I could only have them later, I could wait. It wasn’t business to me. It was everything.” – Alya from Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray, page 214