Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: Amplified by Tara Kelly

Tags: YA, contemporary, music


Deferring college to pursue her music dreams, Jasmine finds herself on the streets with nowhere to live, her father having kicked her out. Moving into a lovely house by the ocean with three guys and joining their band, C-Side, Jasmine gets her chance to shine musically. But with all the doubters in her life—her father, and some of her bandmates—will Jasmine be able to rise above it all and show them she’s got what it takes to make it?


Thank you, Tara Kelly, for reminding me of what a well-written contemporary YA with a flawed but still strong female protagonist can do for me and a relaxing reading night. AMPLIFIED was my unexpected but wholly gratifying pick for the type of evening I was worried I had lost forever: several hours of relaxing into Jasmine’s ultra-cool, exciting, and satisfying musical world.

I wish this book could have somehow come with a soundtrack: Tara Kelly’s descriptions of Jasmine’s mindset as she plays guitar is the kind that you want to experience, to live, yourself. To feel the thrill of being utterly absorbed in the act of artistic creation—reading AMPLIFIED made me all the more determined to practice guitar more or get back into writing!

There was something satisfyingly right about the tone of Jasmine’s narration. It could’ve been easy for her to go over-the-top dramatic with her reactions to everything going on in her life, but I loved that the writing was so smartly controlled. This means that we are allowed to sympathize with both Jasmine and her father as they battle it out epically over letting her scrabble uncertainly on her own or following his well-intentioned path to success. It means that we can connect with every member of the band: Veta with her admirable “badassness” yet kind heart; the utterly adorable Felix (no elaboration necessary, you really just have to read the book for this); Bryn’s well-intentioned anal-retentiveness; and Sean’s snide remarks masking a creative and sexy soul.

Indeed, all of the characters, from major to minor, were well drawn, believable, and easy to empathize with. Some—like Sean and Veta’s younger sister, Zoe, with her thousand-page fantasy epics and cute-to-die-for crush that she so determinedly denies—are easier to like than others—Sean’s vengeful ex—but when it comes down to it, there are no stereotypes in AMPLIFIED, which made for an thoroughly absorbing read.

Contemporary YA authors may have a more difficult time finding an audience fueled on hype and flashy premises, but in the long run, they, in my opinion, often gain the more devoted fans. And as Tara Kelly’s sophomore novel was no less well-written and music-filled than her first, Harmonic Feedback, you can bet that I will be hovering through the Internet, waiting for news of her future books.

Similar Authors
Sarah Dessen
Yvonne Prinz

Cover discussion: Blergh. Did you read the book? Jasmine is a jeans kind of girl. She'd never agree to wearing fishnets. Typecasting, man, typecasting!

Henry Holt & Co. / Oct. 25, 2011 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $16.99

ARC received from publisher.


  1. Ah, and now this has filled me with hope. I've been on a pretty good run with contemporary YA, but I'm always afraid the next one won't live up to my hopes. It sounds as though this one is worth the reading. Great review!

  2. I tried to read this one, but the MC actually drove me nuts within the first twenty pages and I couldn't continue. :/ Pity, because I LOVED Harmonic Feedback.

  3. i agree with you. i haven't been reading contemp for that long but now it's all i really find myself caring for. it's so relatable and lovely. i try out other genre' but i always find myself coming back to this genre. i've been seeing this a lot lately. looks promising :)

  4. Sheesh! I had every intention of reading Harmonic Feedback, and now I need to read amplified as well! Thanks for a stellar review. And your cover commentary made me want to read the book even more :)

  5. I loved this book even more than Harmonic Feedback. It was nice to see a genuinely smart, flawed, and mouthy heroine instead of the faux-sassy that seems to be dominating YA of late. Great review!

  6. HF took the cake for me over Amplified, but I agree, still awesome! : )

  7. YES, times x 10000. I loved Amplified and NEED to find Harmonic Feedback, because TK's writing is so addictive.

  8. I very much want to read this book! Great review, Steph. Also she may be typecast but I lurrrrve that cover anyway. =)


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