The Vinyl Underground

North Star Editions. Mar. 2020. 328p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781635830507.
Gr 9 Up–It’s 1968 and Ronnie Bingham is reeling from the death of his brother, Bruce, in Vietnam. Unsure whether to continue with the future he and his brother envisioned or follow his own path to college, Ronnie drifts along, his only real purpose to avoid the draft. When a new girl, Hana, comes to town, Ronnie and his best friend Milo are drawn to her rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll nature and they create a record club where they can discuss and debate as well as enjoy and indulge their deep love for the protest music of the day. Together, with Bruce’s best friend, Ramrod, they concoct a plan to keep Ronnie from the draft. When they suffer a devastating racial attack, the gang decides it’s time for a less nonviolent form of protest. Rufus aptly depicts the sensibilities and outlook of youth in 1968, from the generally passive rebellion of The Vinyl Underground to the gung ho patriotism elsewhere. In fact, the characterizations, as well as the foursome’s bond over the music, drive the story. The music also plays a significant role in the story but superficially, without any deep dives into the lyrics and their meaning.
VERDICT With a realistic and uplifting–if not completely happy–ending, the story moves quickly. The language, casual drug use, and smoking are part of the era, and part of the book.

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