Verdict: Though at times difficult to believe, NIKKI MAGEE is an inspiring underdog story.
An orphaned girl overcomes abuse through the help of a mob boss and finds success in a rock band.
This book covers several years in the life of an amazing girl. The story is divided into three sections (The Loft, The Stage, The Dream) rather than chapters, in addition to a brief prologue and epilogue.
An eleven-year-old orphan when the book begins, Nikki has endured physical and emotional abuse. Found on the street by visiting rock star Drek Mason, Nikki had been abandoned in a run-down Italian neighborhood run by mob boss Johnny Mazzarisi. Johnny unofficially adopts the girl because, like his late wife, Nikki plays the piano well. He establishes a new life for her, working for pay and practicing piano in her spare time. The mobsters give her money, privacy, respect, and opportunity—never asking about her disturbing past.
Meanwhile Drek’s band is falling apart. One member quits and others are complaining their sound is missing something. What’s missing, of course, is Nikki. Through several highly improbable circumstances, Drek allows Nikki to fill in for his drummer in a local concert. Not only is she a prodigy on piano, but she has mastered drums and vocals, while still in her early teens, with no formal education or musical training. Nikki’s talent lands her other incredible musical opportunities as well.
While this story has good intentions, it falls short on believability and character development. Her abusive background is hinted at, but never fully explained. These contrivances make the story feel unrealistic. For a child to overcome such circumstances without counseling and to achieve greatness without training can strain a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. In addition, the mobster family and friends, an injured harpist, and the rock star are enormously kind and generous one-dimensional characters.
Sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation are unpolished, with many short, choppy sentences and fragments. For example: “Nina has more recordings. She’ll send a few to Lesya. Also, some of the songs on sheet Nikki wrote which she copied.”
Though at times difficult to believe, NIKKI MAGEE is an inspiring underdog story.