Stringz is a contemporary young adult novel about a teenage boy who finally finds a sense of belonging and direction in his life after spending years adrift without any constants in his life aside from his passion for playing the cello.
Jace Adams is a mixed race teenage boy being raised by his single black mother who constantly moves them from city to city in search of a better life, or at least a life away from whatever boyfriend she just broke up with. Jace's white father is completely out of the picture and his older brother, Derrick, who was Jace's role model, landed himself a jail sentence a while ago and since then Jace hasn't heard from him. Now Jace and his mom are living with Jace's Aunt Bernice who is rather mean and harsh to Jace from the get go. Clearly lacking any constants in his life, Jace sees this current move to Seattle from L.A. no different than the other dozens of moves and expects to be uprooted again in a few months. Obviously, he's reluctant to make any attachments to people or places, yet it's pretty clear that like any typical teenager, Jace wants to fit in somewhere once and for all and find a little happiness.
On his first day of school, Jace witnesses some bullies picking on a scrawny kid. He knows better than to interfere, but when he sees the bullies about to bash the kid's violin to smithereens, Jace intervenes, saving the violin and the kid. Now Jace has the school bullies out to get him and a friend he doesn't want in the kid with the violin, Elvis Goldberg.
Jace spends his time just going through the motions at school, halfheartedly trying to prove his skill with the cello to the racist orchestra instructor and trying to avoid being friends with Elvis and Marcy Gordon, the first string cellist in the school orchestra. Jace spends his time outside of school playing the cello on the streets of Seattle to earn cash that he's saving for when he turns 18 and can take off on his own.
Eventually Jace starts to find some comforts and constants in his life in unexpected places, starting with Elvis and Marcy, a homeless man in downtown Seattle, an esteemed private cello instructor and even in his Aunt Bernice.
Stringz sounds like a straightforward, if not predictable story with the somewhat common basic premise of the loner-type teen with a dysfunctional family who just wants to belong somewhere, who finally makes friends and finds their niche. Right? Well, that is true about this book, but what really makes this book shine is how many valuable lessons are layered within this fairly straightforward story. Some of these lessons are very subtle and others are blatant, but each is important and relevant to teens today. There's bullying, racism, issues of abandonment, dysfunctional family issues, friendships, sharing mutual respect for others whether one is an esteemed master musician or a homeless person on the streets, being accepted for who you are and what you do ... not for your color of skin or your socio-economic status ... having an adult have confidence in you and help you be all you can be today in this very moment ... and in your future.
Stringz is a wonderful story of teen triumph and hope with uplifting messages for teens of any age and background. I loved Jace's passion for the cello and music as a whole and how it was both his solace and his celebration. I loved how Stringz accurately portrayed the challenges teens face every day at school and at home and that with a little help from a few good friends and a supportive adult or two, teens can overcome anything. I loved how Jace learned to be confident in himself and put his best foot forward. Not always so easy for teens, or adults for that matter, but what a difference it makes.
You can visit author Michael Wenberg at his website at http://michaelwenberg.wordpress.com/.