A Reader’s Review was lucky to be sent two proof copies of this forthcoming release, to provide an honest review. The book is scheduled for publication this coming May. Both Caroline and I have reviewed the book, outlining our different opinions and perspectives on the story for our readers to compare.
Tina’s Review (scroll down for Caroline’s review which follows on from this).
Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler is a fast and frenetic coming of age novel that will appeal to many readers. It centres on a girl band Crush, who wins a competition to go to Los Angeles, with the opportunity to make it big on the music scene.
The book opens with a bang, on the aftermath of a shocking murder. It then rewinds to eight months earlier, to St Gabriel’s Sixth Form, London, where we witness a disparate group of girls come together, at the suggestion of fellow pupil, Harper McKenzie, to form a band. Their aim, in which they are successful, is to win Project Next, a television talent show with the dream prize of going to LA to win the final heat of the competition at the end of the summer and secure their rock and roll future.
It soon becomes clear however, that Harper’s main motivation for creating the band and winning Project Next, is the desire to be reunited with bad boy Rafe Jackson, who lives in LA and whose father Peter is involved in the competition. This creates a fair amount of friction from the start and plays a key role in the development of the plot. The girls face a world of limousines, designer clothes, personal stylists, parties and temptations they have never experienced before. They must also strive to ensure that their ability to make music remains at the forefront of their minds, when struggling with a host of competing issues, including drug addiction, body image, alcohol, sex and the trials of young love. There are also a number of secrets kept by some of the characters, which combine with a series of events which lead to the dire consequences at the conclusion of the book.
Lucy, the drummer in the band, is the central character, although we also get to know the trials, hopes and dreams of her four friends, Harper, the lead singer, Toni, the bass player, Robyn on guitar and Iza on piano. The personalities of the girls vary, but all have their own personal demons to battle with whilst they are on the cusp of adulthood. Lucy, the most grounded of them all, strives to keep the band together and prevent it from self-destructing in the face of the mounting pressures of making it big in Hollywood. The friendship between Lucy and Harper, which has its ups and downs, is one of the main themes of the plot.
There are a number of supporting characters, such as Rafe, Harper’s love interest, and others, including Jason, the band’s manager, Alexander, the band’s music producer and Tomas, who deals drugs. A romance between one of the secondary characters, Skye and the minor character Cesar pulled at my heartstrings a great deal.
When I picked up this novel I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, simply because I am not a big fan of celebrity culture and TV talent shows. However, the focus is very much on the characterisations and the evolving plot; the trappings of wealth and celebrity culture serve to bring the issues facing the central characters into sharper focus. Also Bridget Tyler writes in such a way that I was quickly drawn into the world she creates. I developed a great deal of empathy for the young women and the other characters she portrays, in what I found to be an emotional and entertaining read.
The author is a screenwriter and I think this comes across in her writing in a positive way as it swiftly draws you into key scenes which highlight the world the girls find themselves in and the group dynamics at play. Every scene counts and the novel could quite easily be made into a film or TV series. Such is the richness of the tale, there is plenty of scope for the author to pen further novels, based on the characters in Drummer Girl. I do hope that she writes a follow up, if only to expand on a burgeoning romance for Lucy, which is introduced at the conclusion. Whilst I would recommend this novel primarily for teenagers or young adults, I feel that adults too would also enjoy it as it deals with universal issues that affect people of all ages in an exciting and engaging plot that keeps you guessing.
Reviewed by Tina Williams, A Reader’s Review Blog
Review below by Caroline Barker, A Reader’s Review Blog
Teenage girls, music, competitions, friendships, romances, alcohol, drugs and a whole load of other trouble is what ‘Drummer Girl’ is from beginning to end. I can see this being a really popular novel, especially for those between the ages of 14 and 18. It is a coming of age story where the characters want popularity, success and romance. However, they all soon discover that life has its fair share of danger and there are some adult themes covered, such as drugs, alcohol and young girls being taken advantage of.
Lucy, Harper, Toni, Robyn and Iza are Crush. The band enters a contest, Project Next, similar to that as The X Factor, and after winning the semi-finals in London they are given the chance to go to Hollywood for the summer to compete in the final. This alone causes family rifts and after reaching L.A. there is a great deal of pressure for the girls to not only work hard, but to party hard too.
Lucy Gosling, the ‘Drummer Girl’, is a nice character. At the age of 17 she is doing well at school with ambition to go further at Oxford. However, joining Crush and entering Project Next with her school friends is a dream come true. She is a clever, sensible teenager that craves fun and excitement with the hope of fame and success. Her only real problem is her best friend, Harper McKenzie.
Harper is an American girl – the other members of Crush are from London – and she can think very highly of herself and will do almost anything to get what she wants. She is the lead singer of the band. There is some history between Lucy and Harper as Harper and her ex-boyfriend, Rafe, caused a great deal of trouble for Lucy. Trouble that Lucy’s parents could not forgive Harper for. I found Harper to be a very irritating character and I could not warm to her at all.
Lucy begins to get suspicious of Harper’s reasons for forming a band and competing as when they arrive in Hollywood they soon meet up with Rafe and his new girlfriend, Skye. Is Harper still in love with Rafe? Is this the only reason why Harper set up Crush? Will more trouble lie ahead?
The introduction of the story begins with Harper’s body floating in a swimming pool surrounded by her blood. We then go back to the previous eight months that lead up to her death and begin with the band forming and competing in Project Next.
During the beginning chapters of ‘Drummer Girl’ I found the story to be unfolding quite slowly, and with Harper being so annoying I found it difficult to carry on reading. However, I did persevere and once the band reached L.A. I found that the story quickened it’s pace and the reader was introduced to more characters and a darker plot. I then needed to carry on reading to find out what had happened to Harper and to follow the girls’ adventure throughout the Project Next contest.
I have mixed emotions about this novel. On the one hand, if reading this book as a young teenager I think this book is a good read with friendship troubles, romance and the dream of becoming a rock star. You are just beginning to understand the dangers in life and this book is an introduction to some of them.
However on the other hand, from an adults point of view, there are moments when I feel that some issues are too adult for it’s audience but written in an almost nonchalant way. For example, when Harper’s body is dead in the swimming pool, at the beginning of the novel, Lucy is looking at the colour of her blood and thinking that Harper would have liked that colour nail varnish! I thought a teenage girl would freak at the image of her best friend’s body, lying lifeless in front of her. I also feel that more thought has gone into keeping the atmosphere of this book light. If this is the case, then maybe the drugs, alcohol and other adult themes shouldn’t be mentioned.
On the whole, ‘Drummer Girl’ is a good Hollywood Dream story, aimed mostly at teenage girls, with some fun characters and is a light-hearted read with some darker topics woven in. It can be likened to High School Musical, mixed with The X-Factor with the added bonus of real adventure and great ordeals. For fans of the novel, it would definitely be interesting to follow Lucy to the next stage of her life as she is a great role model and character.
Thanks to Templar Publishing for providing A Reader’s Review with Bridget Tyler’s novel, ‘Drummer Girl’ in return for an honest and fair review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
Cover art by Will Steele