It’s August 1999 and the world will end in less than four months.
At least, that’s what high school sophomore Derrick Townsend hears on the television as the coming Y2K apocalypse grows nearer every day. On top of that, he’s now the new kid in town, having moved to Mount Vernon a week before school starts for the next semester. Music-obsessed, he creates mixtapes of his favorite songs to help him cope with—and escape—this new, unfamiliar world.
As Derrick navigates music, love and the end of the world, he and newfound friend AJ start a band in order to compete in the school’s talent show. Derrick, however, also wants to impress Haley, the beautiful girl next door who is also reeling from her own personal drama.
With Y2K approaching, the teenagers, contemplating the future and what it may hold, also cope with changing family dynamics and the drama of small-town life.
I don’t remember much about Y2K except that my dad loaded up on firewood and all the adults at school liked to talk smack about the impending apocalypse out loud, but privately, they shared in the fear. As the kid of the school secretary, I got to hear things most kids didn’t hear after school. And that fear festered, though the adults pretended like they were too smart to fall victim to it.
I was too young to remember much else, my life spinning along in much the same way Derrick’s did. The Y2K fear crowded in on the periphery, but as a kid, it didn’t play much of a role in the day-to-day. And for Derrick, his focus was spent more on moving to a new school, making new friends, starting fresh, and pursing his passion of rock music.
This novel hit a lot of notes in the coming of age story. Derrick questions his identity, wondering at who he wants to be, feeling the influences of those around him nudging him in their own little ways. First loves, image issues, friendships, bullying, the future–all of them spiral around in the narrative. And Brandt does an exceptional job wading through them all, navigating Derrick the way many kids did at the time. Those themes play a central role in the plot, as Derrick’s coming-of-age largely drives the plot of the narrative.
That said, I’m not sure I enjoyed how easy things came for Derrick. To be fair, most of my reads deal with more mayhem (chosen ones, dismal prophecies, harrowing quests) so I could just be searching for something that shouldn’t be there. But while Derrick did feel uncertainty and confusion about many aspects of his identity, I thought he received little, if any, push back. Things worked out well for Derrick, in my opinion, as if the world treated him with kid gloves.
He often talked about fearing to share his love for rock with others, and being branded weird because of it, but nearly everyone responded positively to that admission. He loved to play guitar, and in two different instances, guitars were given to him with no strings attached (sorry, not sorry for the guitar pun!). He wanted to connect with the girl next door, and he did. He wanted to become part of the popular clique, and he did. He wanted to jam out with like-minded musicians, a band was formed around him. He gets along well with his new stepdad. In almost all of these instances, in situations that should have been obstacles, Derrick’s desired outcomes fell into his lap while he passively stood by.
Now, there were some instances where Derrick did have to strive for what he wanted, but those felt few and far between. In my opinion, too many good things happened to Derrick (which sounds so terrible when you say it out loud) but I wanted to see more conflict. More adversity, more drive. Stories, in my opinion, aren’t fun when the character has everything handed to them on a silver platter. I like to Frodo second-guess himself because of Gollum’s scheming, Harry mourning Cedric because he couldn’t save him, the Avengers lose to Thanos as he gathered the jewels. Those are the moments that stay with you and I just didn’t see them here.
This is still a solid book. I would definitely recommend it if someone was looking for a bit of YA 90s nostalgia. And again, this is just my opinion on the matter: you might think Derrick suffers greatly. I encourage you to check it out! 4.5 out of 5 stars!