From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–You don't have to be a fan of country music to fall in love with Retta Lee Jones and her inspiring quest to be a country singer. Supplee avoids the oversentimental star-crush often typical of wannabe stories by creating honest characters one might meet in any hometown: anxious parents, stranger turned guardian angel, boy-next-door, fun best friend, young men and women chasing dreams. After graduating high school, Retta Lee stakes everything she has on moving to Nashville to break into the music business. Each step forward, however, seems to take her two steps back–back toward a sad family life and the boy she had a crush. Moving forward toward her dream becomes elusive after her fragile support system falls apart through no fault of her own. But Retta Lee doesn't give up. She reminds herself of the country artists she's admired all her life and takes inspiration from their trials and tribulations and eventual success. Supplee opens each well-paced chapter with a brief profile of popular singers, providing continuity and interesting tidbits about the royals of country music. Retta Lee's innate kindheartedness; her aspirations in a highly competitive field, always tempered with good old commonsense; and her burgeoning talent make her an immensely likable and believable character who steadfastly follows her dreams in a world often inured to such high hopes.Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
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After graduating from high school in a small Tennessee town, Retta dreams of making it to Nashville and becoming a country music star. But even with her beautiful voice, how can she get there? And who will listen? How can she leave her parents, who barely speak to each other? Retta does make it to Nashville, though, and she sleeps in her car; works a day job; and finds kindness, friendship, and good luck, as well as violence and cruelty. Country music fans will grab this for the details of the steel guitars, banjos, and fiddles and the legendary landmarks; at the start of each chapter, there is a page-long bio of a famous star, from Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash, that discusses the musicians' hardscrabble lives and successes. Retta's personal story is filled with classic young-adult conflicts. Should she go back and help Daddy after Mama leaves? The beautiful song she writes about the push and pull of home has a message every teen can relate to: “Just me in the middle, wondering who I should love.“ Grades 8-11. --Hazel Rochman