All Together Now by Hope Larson, 192 pp, RL 5

All Together Now
Review Copy from FSG

All Summer Long, Larson's first in this trilogy, ended with middle schooler Bina opening her locker, a flood of responses to her DIY flier reading, "Hey, You! Join My Band! We Will Be Terrible and We Will Rule!" All Together Now finds Bina in eighth grade, with a new friend, Darcy, a keyboard-playing transplant from Brooklyn, and the nucleus of a band. When the drumming prodigy Enzo joins Darcy and Bina, there is friction almost immediately. Dacry's attempts to smooth things out end up with her and Enzo dating, forming their own band AND rewriting one of Bina's songs! As Bina tries to deal with this musical (and friend) betrayal, things with Austin, her next door neighbor and longtime best friend take an unexpected turn.

While I definitely appreciated Bina's efforts to understand and accept the seemingly crappy choices Dacry makes (isn't middle school when friendships start to get really challenging?) what I especially loved about All Together Now is the storyline with Austin. Having broken up with his first girlfriend, Austin begins to see his friendship with Bina as something more. Meanwhile, Bina is surrounded by dating couples and people talking about dating an crushes and she just wants to jam. Feeling like an outsider among her peers makes things with Austin even more complicated, but Bina ultimately speaks her mind, clearly and kindly and keeps her heart where she wants it, with music. All Together Now finds Bina almost in the same spot as where she ended All Summer Long - looking to start a band. Happily, while watching Darcy & Enzo play their first real gig, she meets a drummer and bassist. I wish I had Bina as a role model when I was in middle school and turning away from my creative pursuits as I felt the pressure to be like all the other kids talking about dating or dating. A superb sequel - can't wait for the third!

Back matter includes 8+ pages where Larson shows readers, in excellent detail, how she makes comics!


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