________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Born to Rock.

Gordon Korman.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2006.
261 pp., cloth, $19.99.
ISBN 0-439-94600-X.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4

Leo Caraway is planning to go to Harvard. He has been accepted and even has a scholarship. Everything changes after an alleged ethical incident in an exam. Leo has not done anything wrong, but the incident still costs him his scholarship. Leo's parents cannot afford the tuition. Enter Marion X. McMurphy, aka King Maggot, the lead singer of the world's most notorious punk band, aka Leo's biological father. King Maggot's band, Purge, is doing a reunion tour over the summer, and Leo joins as a roadie in order to get to know his biological father and hopefully to get his tuition money for Harvard.

     Protestors surrounded our hotel. We weren't in any danger. There were policemen keeping them behind barriers. But it was kind of spooky to have total strangers so mad at you. Yet it was the only time since I'd met King that I really had the sense he was enjoying himself. He leaned into the crowd and uttered a Hannibal Lecter-like snake hiss that had people jumping backward for their lives. A sign that read NEZZER = SATAN had a special attraction for Bernie. “Satan won't be coming today,” he assured the woman, who was regarding him with distaste. “He has a hernia.” Llama the poodle, led by Max on a tight leash, chose that very moment to make a statement on the sidewalk. The reaction from the protestors was absolute bedlam. I honestly think SOD believed that Purge had deliberately trained the dog to do something disgusting. By the time we were safely inside the lobby, we were on our hands and knees on the carpet. It was the first huge laugh I'd ever shared with King Maggot.

     As the tour goes on, Leo learns about the band and the punk music scene. He also learns more about one of his best friends. Melinda wasn't happy that Leo is actually the son of her punk hero, but her mind changes as the story goes on. The tour falls apart, but Leo does get to know King Maggot. And King, after a final scene in the office of the assistant principal, finds he wants to get to know Leo. Gordon Korman has created a serious story with a light-hearted atmosphere. Born to Rock takes the reader on Leo's journey of discovery – discovery of family, of love, of himself and of a life he never dreamed of. The importance of these discoveries is in no way muted by the humour, rather it is enhanced. The humour serves to draw the reader farther into the book and the lives of the characters. The book is set at a fast pace but not faster than the reader can handle. The world of punk rock as seen through the eyes of Leo Caraway is not always what is expected. Born to Rock is a fun read that will be appreciated by a wide audience.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a student in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

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