April 10, 2019

Janet Tashjian: "For What It's Worth"

Title: For What It's Worth [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Janet Tashjian [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Nice coming-of-age story with authentic teenage voice and a classic rock soundtrack.
Cons: While middle-graders/younger teens are the best audience for this one, they're likely not to be familiar with most of the music featured, unless their parents (or grandparents?) exposed them to it.
Will appeal to: Youngsters dealing with first loves, complicated family dynamics and making sense of the world. Youngsters who can relate to loving music on a deep level. Adults who grew up with classic rock and are willing to read a well-crafted slice of teenage life set in the era.

Blurb: The year is 1971 and the place is Laurel Canyon, California. Quinn, a fourteen-year-old music "encyclopedia," writes a music column called "For What It's Worth" for his school paper. But Quinn's world is about to change when he is faced with helping a war dodger and must make some tough decisions. When he starts receiving cryptic Ouija board messages from Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix (all members of the 27 Club), he knows he is in over his head. Fortunately for Quinn, his new girlfriend Caroline helps him get a grip and channel his inner self. (Amazon)

Review: This one is a bit of an odd fish, since it crosses the boundary between MG and YA, and yet it would be better appreciated by an adult with a basic knowledge of the music involved. I think it was what influenced my rating the most, because FWIW has a lot going for it. Also, please note: this particular review has been split in two parts only (instead of the usual three) because it would have been redundant to do otherwise. FWIW is a coming-of-age story as much as it's a story fueled by music, and those are the two aspects my review will focus on.


I love how authentic Quinn's voice is. He's fourteen, never been kissed, passionate about music in a way that - alas - only a kid who grew up before the digital age can be. And self-absorbed (or lacking social awareness) in a way that rings completely true for a teen his age. He has an older female sibling with whom he entertains your classic love-hate relationship, but still leaning on the love side (though he probably would never admit it if not under torture). He's oblivious to what boils under his unbalanced family dynamic. And he's equally oblivious to the changes occurring around him, what with the Vietnam War seeping more and more into his idyllic suburban life. During the course of a few months though, all these things are about to change, for better or worse. As a coming-of-age story, Quinn's is well-executed and relatable, and the best thing is, it doesn't change the core of what he is (which would be an improbable feat, but it doesn't mean that a less skilled writer wouldn't have gone there). He makes mistakes and learns from them and becomes a better person, and this is the realest thing you can ask from a character. [...]


Music is the heart and soul of this book, with even a handful of artists of the time featuring in cameo roles. Quinn owns an extensive vinyl collection, and the covers of those records are every bit as important as the songs they hold. He even allegedly receives messages on his Ouija board from three deceased rock idols of the era - and if you read the book, I'll let you make up your mind about it being the truth or just wishful thinking. I'll only comment that this little quirk in an otherwise very well-grounded story helps shaping Quinn's character, among other things. The fact is, I can relate to his being so utterly immerse in music...but would a teen (this book's intended audience) feel this way nowadays? In the digital age, kids hardly know what it's like to listen to music on a physical support, let alone LOVE vinyls...Music today is more often than not downloaded illegally (and yes, we had cassettes in my time, but we always ended up buying the records we truly loved, and even some we would outgrow later) and treated like a fleeting commodity. Not to mention, even I - 52 y.o., lifelong music fan and radio personality - am not familiar with a few musicians...and more than a few song...featured in this book. So here lies the problem with FWIW - it's a well-crafted, honest and funny little story that may appeal to adults more than teens, but unlike other YA books, it's a more satisfying read for its age target...with the possible exception of its musical aspect. I hope younger readers may prove me wrong and be inspired to do some research/discover some old-but-new-to-them artists, but I'm afraid they'll never know how it feels to eat and breath music as we did in the vinyl era...

For more Contemporary/Contemporary with a Twist books click here.


  1. I like the sound of this one. I don't think there are enough offerings in lower YA (and I read a LOT of YA), and I like the music angle too.

    1. Exactly - there aren't! There's a void between "plain" MG and "plain" YA that so very few books seem to fill.

  2. When I first read the title, I thought it had something to do with Karen's blog! Hah! I really love books that have a strong musical element (Rockstar romances are some of my favorites!), and this sounds like something I might enjoy.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    1. LOL, I know, that title! When I wrote my short Goodreads review a while ago, me and Karen joked about it. She said she thought I reviewed her blog 😂.

      This is not a rockstar romance of course, but it's cute. I do think you might enjoy it!


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