Music and mystery twist together in Robert Paul Weston’s latest YA novel, which features Kaz Barrett, a 16-year-old boy who’s as focused on building his bank account as he is on getting a girlfriend. But contrary to what everyone thinks, Kaz isn’t desperately saving for college. Every dollar he earns working at the local laundromat goes toward sending his mother to an expensive clinic in New York in an attempt to cure the rare neurological disease that causes her to fall asleep for days at a time.
Despite the difficulties in Kaz’s life (in addition to his mom’s health and money problems, his father died years earlier), he’s still very much an average teenage boy who loves music and girls. This combination of earnest teen behaviour mixed with a sense of responsibility and compassion makes Kaz a likable and believable narrator. Kaz’s life is definitely not easy, but he chooses to work hard rather than complain.
Then Kaz meets Zoey, a busker on a street corner near his home, and falls under the spell of her beautiful, haunting music. Zoey has her own dark secrets; she won’t let Kaz get too close and is strangely evasive about her past and the bizarre instrument she plays, affectionately called the “rood rattler” due to its giant cross-like shape.
Weston effectively drops hints about Zoey’s mysterious past, and it won’t be too difficult for astute readers to put the pieces together a step or two ahead of Kaz. This isn’t necessarily a criticism; rather, it’s entirely believable that Kaz’s obsessive love for Zoey would blind him to the truth. Fortunately, the novel’s journey is suitably winding to keep the reader intrigued.