Canadian Jeff Norton (now based in the U.K.) – author of the Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie books and the MetaWars series – joins forces with first-time author and entertainment-industry veteran Marie Powell on the novel Keeping the Beat.
The book opens with 17-year-old Lucy finding her best friend, Harper, shot dead in a swimming pool in Los Angeles. The story then circles back to describe the events leading up to Harper’s murder. At home in the U.K., Harper and Lucy, along with three of their schoolmates, form a rock band called Crush. The band relocates to Los Angeles for the summer to compete on the reality TV show Project Next.
For a story that could have easily been a strong example of female empowerment and friendship – young women in a rock band setting out on their own – it is disappointing to see how much of the action focuses on developing love interests. There is no diversity (all five girls are in heterosexual relationships), and too much of the book focuses on their sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle instead of giving time to more important plotlines.
The novel deals with mature subject matter: drinking, drugs, sexual assault, murder. And while the storyline is melodramatic, the over-the-top setting makes it surprisingly plausible. The theatrical plot, easy-to-read dialogue, and fun cast of showbiz characters make the book a quick read.
That said, the novel’s biggest issue is its structure. We know from the opening pages that Harper is going to be murdered, but the event itself doesn’t occur until the book is almost over, which doesn’t leave enough time for her friends to process what’s happened. The details of the crime are revealed, but little else is satisfactory in the book’s hasty resolution.