Nat Amoore, The Right Way to Rock, Puffin Books Australia, June 2021, 337 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760897703
This is Nat Amoore’s third novel for young readers after two highly successful and hugely popular earlier novels, all based in the ‘boring’ little town of Watterson. Twelve-year-old Mac Fleetwood Cooper and his little brother Stevie Nick are the children of a single mother who’s mad about Fleetwood Mac and who works at a bar where the live bands are about to be replaced by pokie machines. The silver lining in her world is that her son is going to be a rock star who plays the kind of music she loves. But Mac has other ideas. He is certainly into music, but he loves Broadway musicals. Will he ever be able to confess this to his mother?
At a Secret Society for lovers of Broadway musicals, he meets Flynn Vanderberg, preternaturally talented, deeply knowledgeable about musicals, owner of two parents who work in the right branch of the music industry, and himself a boy who has a full blown Tourette Syndrome going. Flynn doesn’t swear (only 10% of TS people do the swearing thing), but his talk is hilariously studded with ‘gherkin’ and with a series of inventive off-the-wall phrases that can inspire song lyrics.
This genial, funny, warm novel takes off when Mac discovers that his primary school is planning to remove its entire arts cohort of teachers at the end of the year. How can he help to save his school’s art and music programs? — especially since Stevie will be going there next year, and the best teacher in the school is Ms Fox, the music teacher.
Is it possible that the Secret Society could come out into the open? Is it possible to write and produce a musical that everyone in town would want to see? What might be the story and the theme? Who might play the parts? Is Watterson up for something as wild and woolly as this—and what will Mac’s mother do when she discovers her son’s love of musicals (the music isn’t even music, if you have a rock singer’s heart)? Is there a right way to rock? And if there is, is it whichever way makes you happy? And isn’t that purpose of rock, after all?
Well, we don’t have all the answers, but going along for the ride with Cooper and Vanderberg and friends for a few hundred pages is a pretty exciting way to try to find out. Recommended for readers, musicians, and lovers of Broadway from ten to fourteen.
Reviewed by Kevin Brophy