OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Funny yet not shying away from raw emotion, Amplified blends solid writing and an original story line with unique and fantastically well done characters. Jasmine is a girl who knows what she wants in life yet isn’t completely fearless or able to ignore everything thrown at her. With several strong subplots that are masterfully weaved, Amplified portrays a music focused lifestyle in a way that is relatable even to those not well versed in the industry.
The Extended Version:
Jasmine is the kind of girl that might get a bad label because she comes across as brash and unfeeling, but it’s easy to see that she is a mixture of shy and unsure yet determined and strong that Kelly integrates seamlessly. Kicked out of her house because she wants to focus on her music rather than go to college, and no longer willing to just give in to her father’s wishes and whims, Jasmine finds herself in a completely new situation for both herself and readers. Though the effects of her childhood and home life are shown at various points, it’s more often between the lines and far from an excuse for everything happening in the now. Her overall development is strong, easy to follow, and almost empowering in how well Kelly portrays it and writes this character, and no matter the times where she’s potentially unlikable or how often Jasmine might tell it like it is, she is a very multifaceted character with an explosive story to tell.
Sean is a character who will garner very different reactions from readers throughout the story, from unfeeling jerk to sensitive, sexy and endearing. With his own story line and motivations that are just as intimately weaved throughout the story as Jasmine’s, Sean undergoes a fantastic journey of character development as well, both in response to Jasmine’s sudden barging into his life and his own methods. Completely able to melt a reader’s heart even after turning it cold, and a beautifully handled mixture of confused, tormented and determined, Sean and Jasmine have an interesting romance that shines throughout the book without overcastting the bigger aspects of the plot.
The rest of the bandmates are each memorable and individually defined, from the arrogant and sometimes overbearing yet hot and lovable playboy Bryn to feisty, ready to take on the world for herself and those she cares for Veta, Kelly’s characters will leave their mark with readers. These characters are seen both as individuals, and as part of the band, and the full nature of what Jasmine finds herself in when she lives in the same house they practice in adds a bold element to the story. Holding nothing back from the band life, Kelly includes just the right amount of bickering and drama with the companionship and friendship that comes with being in a band, while still letting it simmer overall beneath the bulk of the story.
The plot of this one is very well paced, mixing in emotion and turmoil with humor and momentum. A few succinct and well developed story arcs drive the story, giving equal attention to Jasmine’s journey and that of the band. While Jasmine’s stage fright is a big element in the book, it’s not the only element, nor is this simply a book about a girl who wants to be in a band. Kelly includes plenty of small things to keep the pages turning even in the breaks between the big points of action, never letting the reader get bored or disengage.
Using some very unique but easy to understand descriptions, and turning the feeling of playing into words in a way that not many would be able to achieve, Kelly’s writing skills pull the story together and knock it out of the park. Emotional at times, humorous without being forced at others, and downright hot at just the right moments, this book hits hard on the realism and doesn’t relent. It’d be easy to see where readers would get bored reading about the girl with the guitar, but the entire thing from Jasmine’s internal thoughts to her feelings to the actual description of the music is fantastic and grabbing in a way that makes the reader feel as though they’re right on the stage with the band.
Hitting on some very rough elements and holding poignant and beautiful scenes, but still keeping a light air overall, Amplified is a fantastic blend of music, figuring things out and romance. With an in your face kind of protagonist who isn't afraid to speak her mind, and a quietly sexy love interest who is far from perfect, the characters are vivid and memorable.
Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: October 25, 2011