In the Band

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
In the Band Book Poster Image
College kids steam things up in mature, romantic read.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The romantic plot might make this book appealing to reluctant readers. 

Positive Messages

Strong message of learning to balance your family's needs with your own and realizing you can't be there for them if you lose yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

After sacrificing her dreams to be there for her family, Riley eventually learns to balance her needs with theirs. Handsome, talented Romeo wants to be in a committed relationship before getting physical; he's always there for Riley and is nice even to her little sister. 



Riley's mom overdoses in what appears to be a suicide attempt.


Riley says she had sex with her boyfriend in high school; she walks in on her best friends drunkenly hooking up in a dorm room. She also gets drunk, makes out with Romeo, and spends the night with him, although they don't have sex. Scenes of sexual activity; a steamy description of mutual masturbation leaves some details to the reader's imagination. Romeo vividly describes a sexual relationship he had with a girl when he was 15. Women constantly surround the band members, and one character in particular often has one-night stands with them.


All the biggies, such as "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," and "bitch," used frequently in conversation. 


Mentions of iPod, Barbie, SweeTarts, Nintendo DS, Absolut, Victoria's Secret (though Riley calls it "Victoria's-Slut-Secret"), Crock-Pot.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

College kids -- including the protagonist -- drink at parties and in clubs, sometimes until they're drunk. Riley's mom is depressed and overdoses on sleeping pills; another time she drinks a dangerous amount while caring for her young child. Characters also drink coffee.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In the Band, first in a planned series about the band Luminescent Juliet, is part of a new-adult book genre, targeting adults in their late teens and 20s. It features a lot of drinking and swearing, as well as some pretty intense sexual scenes (college students hooking up while drunk, mutual masturbation between two main characters). A parent is depressed and appears to attempt suicide. The main male character, Romeo, is a pretty stand-up guy who wants to be committed to protagonist Riley before having sex with her. Riley learns some valuable lessons, too, about balancing her family responsibilities with her own needs. The romantic plot might make In the Band appealing to reluctant readers. 

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What's the story?

Since Riley's parents split up, her mom's been depressed, so the teen has taken over a lot of the household duties, including caring for her younger sister. She earned a college scholarship for her skills as a marching band drummer but gave it up to stay home and help. She does do one thing for herself: She tries out for a popular rock band at her local college and, against the wishes of arrogant, sexist (and very handsome) lead guitarist Romeo, gets the job. Sparks fly between Riley and Romeo, but she begins to realize there's more to him than his attitude; he has intense personal issues of his own. Is she in love with the boy she thought she hated? Can she keep their emerging romance a secret from the other band members?

Is it any good?

IN THE BAND has the elements of a good book: Riley's drumming makes her a distinctive character, and the band premise is fun. College-age readers in particular might relate to Riley as a stressed-out character trying to balance her work with overwhelming family and school responsibilities. Plus -- let's just get to it -- those steamy scenes between Riley and Romeo will make romance fans swoon. Romeo himself is pretty swoon-worthy; he's a handsome, talented musician who wants to be in love before getting physical, and he's always there for Riley and even nice to her little sister.

On the other hand, some of the writing can be over the top: "Yet when we're together, we exist on an island for two where sincerity and benevolence are intertwined in the warm breeze." Also, the family-related story lines, such as the one about Riley's mother's mental illness or her father's planned remarriage to a young woman, never seem real or compelling. Although there's a good lesson here ("Taking care of my family shouldn't eradicate my chance at happiness. I can't be there for my family if I lose myself and melt away"), let's just get back to the romance already, shall we?  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about new adult books, which often have characters in college and include more sexuality. Do you think this genre will last?

  • The protagonists here hate each other -- before they fall in love. Can you think of other stories that follow the same formula? Do you think it's realistic?

  • What's the best way to help someone you love who's struggling with mental health issues? Should you ever keep it a secret? Why, or why not?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and interesting girl protagonists

Themes & Topics

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