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Lemonade Mouth    by Mark Peter Hughes order for
Lemonade Mouth
by Mark Peter Hughes
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Five students at Opequonsett High School in Rhode Island narrate their story in alternating voices. Their backgrounds vary and they don't initially know each other, but the fab five have two things in common - detention and music. Unfortunately, the school board and town council have voted for construction of an outstanding new gymnasium, calling for drastic cuts in the school's music program.

Wen(del)'s dad's new girlfriend Sydney is very much his junior - an artist, she's temporarily staying with Wen's family. Wen heads to the front of the classroom for his well-prepared Social Studies presentation. Opening the envelope, he finds not Bolivia material, but charcoal sketches of a naked woman - as he rushed out of the house he grabbed the wrong envelope, containing Sydney's artwork. Wen's obvious response to the photos brings a blush as classmates start to giggle leading to all-out laughter. Word spreads, and along with embarrassing name-calling, detention puts a crimp in Wen's plan to try out for the Marching Band in the trumpet section.

Stella's new at the school after a family move from Arizona. Not only is Stella's mom a genius, so is her sister and stepfather. Stella, who tested at IQ 84, reflects: 'a family of geniuses, I was now a documented dummy'. Rebelling over the move, she changes her appearance drastically and is summoned to the principal's office for her attire - jeans, snakeskin jacket, and a T-shirt with two hands painted on front. Stella attempts to arouse support for student rights in the middle of an assembly celebrating the new gymnasium - wearing her banned T-shirt and holding a sign: 'My Shirt, My Decision! Don't Let The School Take Over Your Rights!'. Result? Detention. Stella plays the electric guitar.

Charlie must complete a special composition for extra credit in order to make a C grade. In study hall, Charlie puts up with spitballs thrown at him by upper graders Scott and pals, who are superstars in soccer and members of the school's popular rock band, Mudslide Crush. Charlie returns the spitballs but unfortunately his aim is off and he hits an uninvolved student. Result? Detention. Charlie plays drums.

Mo(hini), the only Indian student in the school, feels she 'stands out like a nigella seed in mayonnaise'. An overachiever planning on medical school, she has little time for play. Her parents moved from Calcutta to the United States, to provide Mo and her sister opportunities for a better life. Stalwart in their culture's traditions, they encourage their daughters to marry within their Bengali background, and allow no boyfriends during school years. But popular heartthrob Scott makes a play for Mohini, and they become a couple. Unfortunately, a teacher catches them making out. Result? Detention. Mo plays double bass.

Olivia is a loner living with her grandmother, since mom left when she was a toddler and dad is in prison. Funds for tuition run short for Olivia to continue at St. Michael's, an alternative school offering 'an education 'without walls'.' Now Olivia finds herself in a school with walls and detention. Skipping a scheduled class of American Lit, Olivia is found by a teacher hiding in a corridor. Result? Detention. Olivia is a singer.

Before Mrs. Reznik became Opequonsett's music teacher, she was a professional bassist. Now her office has been relegated to the basement. As ward of detention, Mrs. Reznik overhears the five creating 'artistic synergy' to a radio jingle, Recognizing their special sound, she encourages them to compete in the annual talent show. She nudges them with: 'Music is a manifestation of ourselves, of our unique voices ... Don't you want to stand up and show everybody who you are? ... Aren't you tired of letting others carry the day? Aren't you ready to be heard?'

Mark Peter Hughes, who also wrote I Am the Wallpaper, now brings us a spirited, upbeat story of a band named Lemonade Mouth, whose five student members forever change their own outlooks as well as those of others. Wen, Stella, Charlie, Mohini, and Olivia struggle with success, failure, and extensive mishaps. Through their trials and tribulations, the five bond to form an unbreakable friendship. As they are there for each other, 'something happens, something special'.

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