Rita Williams-Garcia packs an intese wallop in these 166 pages. Really though, I should have expected nothing less from the author of the Gaither Sisters series.
Clayton Byrd loves his grandfather, the blues guitarist, Cool Papa Byrd, more than anything or anyone. His mother on the other hand, carries a lot of pain and anger because he was rarely there when she was a child. When he dies, she inadvertently takes her feelings out on Clayton. When Clayton starts having difficulty at school, he can't talk to her about it because of this. To punish him she takes his harmonica away from him and refuses to let him have anything to do with the blues.
In response, Clayton runs away from home in search of The Bluesmen, a group his grandfather played with. Unfortunately, his plan doesn't work out as he expected and he ends up in serious trouble before it is over.
Rita Williams-Garcia really knows how to write. Her characters are so authentic and nuanced you suspect you could run into them on the street. Even the secondary characters have depth to them. I became attached to Clayton and his grandfather within the first few pages. Their love for each other is so tangible it makes the grief more pronounced. Readers of all ages will connect with Clayton's anguish and despair. They will connect to his complicated anger at his mother. She is a complicated, flawed character who has her son's best interests at heart, however misguided her actions may be. Clayton's father, who seems almost absent as a consequence of these actions, is ready and waiting to step up when he is needed.
I appreciated the notes at the end of the book where Williams-Garcia discusses how she became immersed in the blues as a child and her process for how this story evolved. The merging of blues and modern hip hop and rap music is portrayed in those scenes when Clayton runs away.
Also, if you haven't read Williams-Garcia's Gaither Sisters series, you should get those and read them.