September 29, 2005


6X: The Uncensored Confessions. By Nina Malkin. Point/Scholastic. $8.99.

     Scholastic’s teen-themed Push and Point series aspire to more edginess than other Scholastic lines, and they usually deliver it.  But even their better books – of which this is one – don’t deliver much in the way of compelling characterization or themes that go beyond the superficial.

     Nina Malkin’s novel is about a teenage wish-fulfillment come true – four kids become rock stars – and about the consequences (some drug and alcohol use, a bit of sex, parental confrontations, a mild increase in self-awareness).  The rock group’s name, 6X, comes from a clothing size for kids on the verge of growing up, sounds like the word “success,” and also – as the one boy in the group remarks – sounds like “sex,” which is a definite plus.

     The group was supposed to be a girl group, featuring Wynn Morgan (drums), Stella Saunders (bass), Kendall Taylor (voice) and a fourth girl – but the guy putting the group together (friend of Wynn’s dad; long story) can’t find the right girl, and then someone pitches the idea of using a really cute boy instead, and so the fourth member is A/B Farrelberg (yes, A/B), who plays guitar and keyboard and is the best musician of the bunch.

     The idea of the book is to tell the story of 6X in verbal flashbacks, with the four band members’ voices alternating.  Although Malkin does not give their voices significant individuality, the approach works rather well, because she does give them different perspectives on the band and on their own backgrounds.  Each of the four has a nickname: Kendall is The Voice, Wynn is The Body, Stella is The Boss and A/B is, of course, The Boy.  Each is a cardboard character cut from different cardboard: Wynn is rich, gorgeous and at best a so-so musician.  Stella is black (child of a mixed-race marriage), intense, pushy and determined (one of the first things she does to mark the start of the band is lose her virginity).  Kendall is Southern and religious (initially shocked at many of the band’s lyrics), with a mother who is a stereotypical steel magnolia.  A/B is Jewish, highly talented and fairly amazed at being surrounded by girls all the time.

     Once you get the stereotypes down – which doesn’t take long – you can enjoy the narrative, which does have a few surprises (such as Stella’s relationship with the simpatico band manager and the ways in which Kendall falls from grace) and which moves along at a fast pace.  There is very little descriptive detail here; everything is not-too-deep introspection, as when Kendall says, “Singing is so simple.  When I sing, all I feel is love, coming and going.”  Teens who like rock music and can identify with any of the characters will enjoy the group’s ups and downs – provided they don’t take any part of the story too seriously.

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