I just finished reading the book American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland, by Kristen Laine. And it was probably one of the best non-fiction titles I've read in the last year. It was quite simply amazing. Its 318 pages and every page is gripping.
American Band follows Concord High School's marching band. Concord is located north of Indianapolis. Laine became part of the band for all intense and purposes. She interviewed and followed band members and the band director and literally became a part of their lives.
I was never in the band in high school, but I have always enjoyed listening to high school bands. I knew a lot of work went into the field shows, but I never realized how intense it could be. There are many layers to this book. Not only do we have a ringside seat to the practices the band goes through, but also some of the internal struggle the kids find themselves dealing with.
There are times in this book that I read with a lump in my throat. I found myself rooting for the kids and fearing to turn the page because I didn't want a bad thing to happen.
Laine did a great job of story. Its difficult sometimes to make a non-fiction book read like fiction and have the same story arcs and cliff hangers that fiction can have, but she did an amazing job in that regard. She had me hooked and I couldn't let go if I wanted to. I had to know what happened.
There is teenage angst in here, that is expected, but then there is also incredible teenage "steppin-up" that resounds throughout the book. Grant, one of the main characters of the book shines through. He is not only the sould and leader of the bad, but also the soul of the book. His personal struggles and personal tragedies are, to say the least, gripping. And the story arc dealing with freshman Adilene Corona is truly inspiring.
I feel like I'm gushing about this book, which I am, but I haven't read a book like this, that was this good in a very long time. I may have to actually buy the book for my collection. Yes, it was that good.