MMGM and #IMWAYR: Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani
I hope everyone is doing well today! As back-to-school season begins, I just want to take a moment and thank all the wonderful educators I've met in the blogging world, as well as all the wonderful educators I haven't met at all, for their tireless work in shaping the kids of today and tomorrow into better, smarter people, in spite of being under-paid, under-appreciated, and under-protected from the pandemic. I wish you all good luck!!!
I also want to mention that I did some spiffing-up on the blog this past week, so the menu and sidebar have a different layout that is hopefully a little more intuitive—I realized that things I wanted people to see were buried in sidebar widgets or other pages, while things I didn't care much about were taking up space in the main menu. Let me know if the new layout works for you or is totally confusing and awful! (Update [8/15/2021]: I just discovered that the sidebar looks weird on a larger screen, because Blogger, in their let's-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-instead-of-actually-fixing-problems mindset, made it so if you use one of their fancy new templates but don't have an About Me gadget as the first one on the sidebar, then it formats the sidebar in all kinds of creatively awful ways—random gaps in the sidebar, a sidebar that starts bizarrely low on the page, or, my personal favorite, a situation where the gadgets on the sidebar all get crammed in next to each other horizontally so each one is about two letters wide. Honestly, I don't think I care enough to change it all back, but forgive the weird wasted space.) Also, while I was sprucing things up, I updated my beginners' guide to graphic novels to be more useful, and I'm hoping to update my Ratings for the Graphic Novel-Averse soon to be a little more useful as well. Click here to see the updated guide!
Moving along, I'm going to be looking at quite a few graphic novels over the next few months as my reading time flies out the window, so get ready. Today we'll be looking at the graphic novel Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani.
|Preview the illustrations on Amazon
I had previously read Chanani's graphic novel Pashmina back in December, and I honestly wasn't a fan—it had some really great themes but felt clumsily executed in a lot of ways. But I decided to persevere and give Chanani's work another try, so I pre-ordered this book and received a copy when it came out back in June. But then I didn't get around to reading it until now, and even then, it was mainly because I've seen two different recommendations of it from Unleashing Readers—one from their resident kid reviewer, Sofia, and the other from #IMWAYR co-host Kellee Moye! And after taking their recommendations and reading this book, I'm excited to say that it is actually quite a fun read, and I'm glad to have given Chanani another chance!
Jukebox's protagonists are 12-year-old
Shaheen (shown on the left of the cover) and 15-year-old Tannaz (shown on the
right). Shaheen's father Gio is a music journalist who has an almost-obsessive
interest in music history, visiting the record shop, and the like. Then, one
day, he disappears. Shaheen and Tannaz start to investigate, and they end up
in the attic of the local record shop, where a fancy jukebox resides. But the
jukebox has a secret that is quickly revealed...when Shaheen and Tannaz start
to play a record on it, they are taken back in time to the era when the music
was made! The two of them realize that Gio might be trapped in another era,
and so begins their frantic quest through different albums and different time
periods to track him down...a quest that isn't without its obstacles.
Again, I really had a blast reading this graphic novel! It was a short read for me—I started it on Tuesday and finished it on Wednesday—but the book really held my attention quite well during that time. Probably my favorite part of this book was its protagonists, Shaheen and Tannaz—they were quite compelling and likable characters! Shaheen is quite relatable to me—she's a bit of a bookworm (she recommends some books you might recognize to her father early in the story), and she's also the worrywart of the duo, not exactly thrilled to sneak into the deserted record shop at the beginning even if it means figuring out where her father is. Tannaz is the fearless one—she'll pretty much do whatever she needs to if it means having fun. But both girls are warm and thoughtful, and they have a delightful dynamic with each other that I really liked—they fight sometimes, but they find ways to work through it and support each other. Also, I particularly appreciated getting to see Shaheen stand up (somewhat tactlessly, but still) for herself and her own interests in her relationship with her father before the events of the story—when you have a father whose interests are somewhat obsessive, your relationship can get a bit one-sided, but I love how Shaheen challenges that dynamic. And it's also nice to see that the book's cast is diverse, both in terms of race and LGBTQ+ identities, and there's a little bit of exploration of the latter in particular throughout the book.
(One quick aside: there is a moment toward the end of the book that involves hearing loss, and the book pretty clearly states that having hearing loss means missing out on the beauty of music, which I thought was not the most nuanced way of thinking about things—I know there are dances specifically for Deaf people where the music is loud enough that they can feel the rhythm as vibrations, and of course, people with hearing loss can still appreciate things like lyrics, or the music's context, etc. Obviously, this book wasn't going to be the most inclusive of people with hearing loss, but I would still appreciate a more thoughtful way of phrasing things here.)
One main reason why I wanted to read Jukebox is that the book's premise is quite original—there aren't many books involving time travel in the first place, and there aren't many books involving music in the first place either. So combining the two? I've never seen that before, and I probably never will again. In terms of how the premise is executed, it's fascinating to see music placed in the context of historical events like the Vietnam war protests or the women's liberation movement. I was hoping for a little more detail about some of the historical events that Shaheen and Tannaz travel to, but that could always be fodder for further reading—and there are little notes on the intro page at the beginning of each chapter that explain that chapter's relevant music in the context of its time. You do get plenty of fun moments in each era, and poring over the backgrounds of each panel is also a great way to get some extra information. And while you don't get much of a sense of the music itself from Jukebox, there is an official playlist of some of the songs from the albums mentioned in the book, which, as Kellee Moye pointed out, you can find on Spotify (see the bottom of this post!) or as a literal list in the back of the book. I haven't had a chance to listen to it just yet, but I'm hoping to do so soon! In general, I do think the book focuses less on the music and history aspects and more on the adventure-panic-mystery-missing-person aspects—we see a lot of Shaheen and Tannaz working through mini-conflicts, their own fears, and issues that pop up while they try to make a plan to find Shaheen's father without risking harming themselves or even changing the past. So it's a little less informative and a little more adrenaline-filled and interpersonally-focused than you might have been expecting, but that approach brings plenty of perks!
One of the things that I really did love about Jukebox was the art style. And I was actually really surprised to like it, since one of the things that I really didn't love about Chanani's debut, Pashmina, was the art style. But there's a big change in art style between the two books—the art of Pashmina was mostly in grayscale (except for a few full-color scenes), and I found the color scheme to be somewhat uninteresting (and even a bit confusing, since you lose a lot of contrast between people and objects). But Jukebox is illustrated in full color from beginning to end, and the choices of color are excellent—the deep purples of the attic where the jukebox feel appropriately ominous yet magical, and the different locations of time travel each have their own era-appropriate color scheme, with brighter colors that match the fun of these scenes. The illustrations are energetic (thanks to the bright colors) but not frenetic—Chanani keeps her panel compositions reasonably uncluttered, which makes it easy for readers at a glance to tell which characters are shown, what they are doing, and where they are. And the facial expressions are reasonably intuitive throughout. I'm excited to give this book my highest Rating for the Graphic Novel-Averse, because except for details that are occasionally slightly too small to see without moving the book closer to your eyes, the art style strikes an excellent balance between being tons of fun and being super-easy to interpret!
I will say, although Jukebox is a marked improvement when compared to Pashmina, I still see traces of Pashmina's clumsy writing. I found it slightly distracting that Shaheen and Tannaz kind of switch places at points throughout the story—Tannaz starts to get nervous and fear consequences, while Shaheen gets a little too fearless for her own good. I like the idea of having characters step outside of their own box (every human does at some point or another), but I didn't really understand what force actually caused them to do so—people don't normally change their personality on a whim. There were also a few moments of dialogue between Shaheen and Tannaz where one of the two would come across as surprisingly rude to the other, and they never really addressed that beyond a brief "Sorry." The book's ending was definitely rewarding but a little odd—the major plotline ends without much buildup, and a character who had been discussed quite infrequently becomes extremely important all of a sudden during the epilogue. And as someone who isn't particularly knowledgeable about vinyl, I found some of the discussion about the jukebox a little confusing—the jukebox is apparently unique in that it can play records of a full album, instead of the presumably-smaller records that only hold a song or two, but that was never explained super-clearly. It's slightly irritating to have Chanani's clever ideas and interesting themes marred by noticeably imperfect execution, but where that irritation was constant and unavoidable in Pashmina, it is rare and easy to overlook in Jukebox—and I expect that Chanani's third graphic novel, whatever it will be, will be virtually flawless at the rate she's moving.
Despite Jukebox's flaws, I'm still super-glad to have read it! This graphic novel takes two compelling protagonists with a great relationship and tosses them into a situation of music, history, time travel, and intrigue—it's a blend of interesting topics like no other. And since it's a quick read with an aggravation-free art style, Jukebox is a great book to cram in between longer novels if you're looking for a change of pace. I hope you all get a chance to join these characters on this exciting adventure—and if you do, between the historical events and the book's playlist, you'll have plenty of further reading and listening you can do to further dive into this book's world—and your own!
My rating is: Pretty good!
And my rating for the graphic novel-averse is: 4!
And below is the book's official playlist on Spotify—or you can view it on the Spotify website by clicking here! Again, I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm hoping to soon!