Verdict: DISCOVERING KAYLEE is a coming-of-age love story entwined with heartfelt lyrics and an appreciation for music.
Two teens embark on a journey of self-discovery and romance against the turbulent backdrop of the music industry.
High school junior Kaylee Kelly doesn’t think she has anything in common with her standoffish neighbor and classmate Sam Rodgers. That is, until chance allows them to realize their shared love for music. Kaylee, whose musical abilities lie in her vocals and bass guitar, is in awe of Sam’s seemingly unending talent for a myriad of instruments. She convinces Sam to break out of his reclusive shell and together they compete in a Battle of the Bands competition with their eyes on a sought after recording contract. Their passion for music turns into passion for each other, but as they’re tossed around by the stormy seas of the music industry, Kaylee’s wayward antics may tear them—and their chance at stardom—apart.
There are some wonderful ideas about music and music appreciation in DISCOVERING KAYLEE. Characters wax poetic about favorite bands, how a certain guitar riff can make them feel, and the power of performing for a crowd. While the comparisons between music and love are not new themes, Kane and Wilkerson utilize them within the novel in a unique way. Original lyrics, written by both Sam and Kaylee, reflect their love for each other and all of the conflict they are trying to endure together. The novel touches upon difficult topics like abuse from a partner, parental neglect, underage drinking, and exploitation from people in power. Unfortunately, much of the novel’s execution does not ring true, offering a story with both technical and narrative problems.
DISCOVERING KAYLEE feels like two different books: part YA romance with an occasional music storyline, and part NA mature coming-of-age story. The alternating first person perspectives are hard to tell apart, and random point of views make unexplained appearances. Large chunks of time are skipped to push the characters out of high school, and significant relationship developments happen off-page. Kaylee and Sam’s rushed romance takes precedence over their musical journey. An important side-plot about Kaylee suffering abuse at the hands of her boyfriend is never fully resolved. Sam and Kaylee’s hurried transition from high school juniors to independents living together with a mature romance comes across as jarring.
Fun side characters and a brief stint in the professional music world make the second half of the novel better than the first. But a nonsensical, unnecessary character secret is revealed too late, weighing down the already unrealistic elements of the plot and characterizations.
DISCOVERING KAYLEE is a coming-of-age love story entwined with heartfelt lyrics and an appreciation for music.