Title: Drummond: Learning to Find Himself in the Music
Author: Patrick R. F. Blakley
Genre: Young Adult
Drummond: Learning to Find Himself in the Music by Patrick R. F. Blakley follows Drummond, an average boy going into eighth grade, as he joins the marching band. He participates in the drumline, but along his journey of self-discovery, he tries several instruments, meets new classmates, and ultimately finds his place. In the backdrop, his home life slowly unravels, and Drummond leans even more on the marching band to fill a void.
Told in first-person point of view, Drummond’s story feels close to the reader, and since the target audience would be around his age, a young reader may identify with the protagonist. Like many books in this genre, Drummond: Learning to Find Himself in the Music is a coming-of-age story. Who Drummond is at the beginning: uncertain, shy, and timid, isn’t who he is at the end: certain, coming out of his shell, and joking with his band friends. In addition, the narrative is told in present tense, which keeps the reader locked in the moment with Drummond as he goes through life-transforming experiences that, although may seem inconsequential because they are everyday events, add up to finding himself.
Blakley is well versed in how instruments work and music theory, as is confirmed by the author’s note after the story. He demonstrates his knowledge throughout, generally keeping a healthy balance between giving the reader explanations and moving the narrative forward. He often employs dialogue to accomplish sharing information, which is a helpful technique without the narrative slowing. Although the story lags a few times due to explanations of the mechanics of music and marching band, the author overall keeps the story moving at a steady pace.
Drummond meets several other students, befriends some, and even has a girlfriend. The sweet moments with his girlfriend are age-appropriate and will resonate even with older readers as they reflect on their own youths. Many drumline characters are described in excessive detail and not mentioned in more than passing later in the book.
While the sections with the marching band are well developed, Drummond’s home life takes a back seat. He is an only child who lives with his parents. The trouble at home feels like an afterthought. We don’t quite get to know Drummond’s parents. His mother serves the function of driving him around, and his father’s role is even less developed. While children often don’t see their parents as the complex people they are and this may be part of the reason Drummond’s home life is not elaborated much, more scenes with the parents would give a greater impact of how much problems at home affect Drummond. His reaction to news his parents share quite far into the book hits the reader hard and with effective impact, but it’s the first time Drummond seems to notice anything wrong at home. From a story aspect, more conflict is needed earlier so this important moment doesn’t come from nowhere.
Blakley adds in an author’s note after the story that much of the tale is autobiographical. The reader feels this lingering impression throughout, so the author does a commendable job on this.
Drummond: Learning to Find Himself in the Music is a solid coming-of-age story. Blakley’s extensive knowledge of music and his own experiences in his youth bring the tale to life. Drummond is an engaging and entertaining protagonist who many young readers will identify with.
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