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Battle of the Bands

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Fifteen young adult authors and one real-life rock star band together for one epic—and interconnected—take on a memorable high school rite of passage.

A daughter of rock ’n’ roll royalty has a secret crush. A lonely ticket taker worries about his sister. An almost-famous songwriter nurses old wounds. A stage manager tires of being behind the scenes. A singer-songwriter struggles to untangle her feelings for her best friend and his girlfriend. In this live-out-loud anthology, the disparate protagonists of sixteen stories are thrown together for one unforgettable event: their high school’s battle of the bands. Told in a harmonic blend of first- and third-person narrative voices, roughly chronological short stories offer a kaleidoscopic view of the same transformative night. Featuring an entry from Justin Courtney Pierre, lead vocalist of Motion City Soundtrack, Battle of the Bands is a celebration of youth, music, and meeting the challenges of life head-on.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published September 7, 2021

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About the author

Lauren Gibaldi

8 books314 followers
Public librarian and author of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, MATT'S STORY (a Night We Said Yes novella), AUTOFOCUS, and THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD, all with HarperTeen / HarperCollins. Fan of dinosaurs and cheesy jokes. And you.

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5 stars
45 (19%)
4 stars
101 (42%)
3 stars
77 (32%)
2 stars
11 (4%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Jeff Zentner.
Author 9 books2,131 followers
August 26, 2021
I have a story in this, but it’s still an excellent book.
Profile Image for Geoff.
959 reviews86 followers
October 15, 2021
This was a lot of fun. The conceit to these interconnected stories is that they all occur at the same high school battle of the bands which leads to the reappearance of characters, callbacks to earlier stories, and viewing of events from other perspectives (sometimes handled cheesily, sometimes well). It does give the impression that this high school has SO. MUCH. DRAMA.

But y'all it was good drama; YA stories about love, and friendship, and family, and betrayal, and self-betrayal, and self-discovery, all of the drama that you get into in your teen years (and never really stop getting into if you keep growing, to be honest. Maybe a little less messy and with less cheese as you get older. But maybe not.).

With different authors for each chapter (and different POVs and different main bands / characters) there are some big shifts in tone (and presentation and characterization of some people like the music teacher MC) but it's a nice reminder that different people see the world very differently. And in general the editors did a good job keeping things from getting too out of whack. A good read if you are a teen, know a teen, are in a band, know a band, or enjoy music and stories of self-discovery.

**Thanks to the editors, authors, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mora.
510 reviews17 followers
January 31, 2022
so i was very impressed with the level of interconnectedness and i thought it was very cool and well-done but it did mean many of the stories blurred together, especially the ones revolving around dating/crushes/romantic relationships

You had me at "interconnected stories" because (shockingly, I know) I have a weakness and it is

get this

interconnected stories
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,290 followers
March 12, 2021
Unofficially: This was so. Much. Fun. It brought me waaaay back to going to shows with friends, both little and big, in high school, and reminded me how much life benefits from a soundtrack. The ways some of the stories tie together is SO cute, and honestly I could've read another ten of them. Love to see both some familiar faves in here and some authors I've never seen tackle short form before!

Officially: Empowering, hilarious, romantic, and wildly fun, Battle of the Bands perfectly captures both the magic of music and the drama of competition. It’s hands down my new favorite playlist.
Profile Image for Dani Jordan.
188 reviews292 followers
September 20, 2021
So... I have been seeing this book literally EVERYWHERE. It has been all over my feed for weeks.. and from the moment I saw the title I KNEW it would be right up my alley.

Before I was obsessed with books, I was obsessed with bands..I grew up in the Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, Boys Like Girls, The Academy Is..., Cobra Starship, Warped Tour scene..

This book BROUGHT me back to those days. Back to going to shows with friends, spending all of our money on merch, standing for hours in line to make it to the barricade, that feeling when the lights went dim just before the bands took the stage..

It was incredible to get such a great line up of authors, coupled with so many great references...

It's incredible to me that so many authors were able to craft such a seamless story with such few pages per story.

Overall this book was a lot of fun, with some really incredible heartfelt and empowering moments. I loved how character based and relatable every single story was, and how each story felt unified, yet so distinct.

Highly recommend adding this to your reading queue!
Profile Image for Lindsay (pawsomereads).
571 reviews357 followers
August 21, 2021
Individual story ratings:
Miss Somewhere by Brittany Cavallaro: 3⭐️
Cecilia (You’re Breaking My Heart) by Ashley Poston: 4⭐️
Sidelines by Sarah Nicole Smetana: 3.5⭐️
Battle of the Exes by Sarvenaz Taghavian: 3⭐️
Love is a Battlefield by Shaun David Hutchinson: 3⭐️
You Found Me by Ashley Woodfolk: 3.5⭐️
Adventures in Babysitting by Justin Courtney Pierre: 3⭐️
Peanut Butter Sandwiches by Jasmine Warga: 4.5⭐️
Reckless Love by Jay Coles: 3⭐️
The Ride by Jenn Marie Thorne: 3⭐️
Three Chords by Eric Smith: 4⭐️
Merch to Do About Nothing by Preeti Chhibber: 4.5⭐️
All these Friends and Lovers by Katie Cotugno: 5⭐️
A Small Light by Jenny Torres Sanchez: 4.5⭐️
Set the World on Fire by Lauren Gibaldi: 4.5⭐️
The Sisterhood of Light and Sound by Jeff Zentner: 4⭐️

General thoughts:
This anthology was such a fun collection of interwoven short stories for music lovers or anyone looking to enjoy the drama and romance of a night spent at a high school production.
I’ve never read a story collection like this one before! I loved that the stories were interconnected and they each pulled small elements from each other. It made for one whole cohesive story with so many different voices. I’d love to know what the writing process was like and how the authors pulled this off! Each story was good on its own but the way they all created a larger narrative together was so special.
Everything came really full circle in the end which was fitting for the theme and inclusion of feel-good stories with happy endings. I also really appreciated the diversity within the stories from race to gender identity to sexual orientation. This is always so important in literature, especially in a coming of age book like this one.
This was such a fun read and I hope to find more books and anthologies like this in the future!
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,150 reviews1,290 followers
September 26, 2021
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Battle of the Bands edited by Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith is an upbeat anthology of interconnected stories about a battle of the bands competition. I loved the wide range of perspectives, featuring characters with differing relationships to the event, and each of the works within it are strong. The audiobook version is equally engaging, and the full cast makes the world of the contest feel like a real community. This is a great read for those looking for something quick that will leave them with a smile on their face.

This anthology features interconnected stories all centred around a high school battle of the bands contest. As a big fan of books about music, and an even bigger fan of books about competition, I was so excited to see 15 different stories with common themes of finding your place and working hard to achieve your dreams. I loved the way the stories are in dialogue with each other, with some characters making appearances in multiple authors’ contributions, and the wide range of perspectives and relationships to the competition, from a lead singer to a judge to a stage manager, is well-executed. While each story is about the same event, they all feel unique as all angles of the competition are included.


I always find anthologies difficult to review since there are always a few stories that are inevitably a miss for me. However, this is one of the rare cases where I genuinely enjoyed each one, and I came away a list of new authors to check out. I especially enjoyed Preeti Chhibber’s contribution, following two people in charge of the merch table, and Lauren Gibaldi’s story, which stars the stage manager who is sick of being in the background. Out of all of them, Katie Cotugno’s work, “All These Friends and Lovers,” might have been my favourite. The characters are so well-written, and she packs so much into such a short space, somehow making the short story feel fully developed.


Listening to the audiobook version of this book was a surprising and enjoyable experience. The anthology is narrated by a full cast, which each story read by someone new, and I found that each narrator suited their section so well. I wasn’t expecting so many different voices, and I loved the way this makes the world of Battle of the Bands feel like a real community. The variety of narrators also helped me keep the stories separate, and I would definitely recommend this format.


Battle of the Bands edited by Lauren Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith is a unique and entertaining anthology about the titular battle of the bands competition. I loved the wide range of stories within it, and I had many favourites. The audiobook version is also well-produced, with a full cast that captures the community of the event. Everyone, whether a music fan or a music hater, is sure to find something for them in the pages of this book.
Profile Image for Aly.
2,463 reviews
September 15, 2021
I enjoyed the theme of this book, centering around a battle of the bands competition. Some characters are members of the band, some are stage crew or ticket takers, one is even a judge. There are cute romances, terrible exes, and some pretty good songs. Each story interconnects with the others, showing us the bands in the show and who wins it all.

I think there were too many stories in this, making each one very short. Some didn't seem to have a lot going on and I wanted to get to know the characters more. It was difficult keeping track of so many people and how they all fit in to the story. If there were half the stories, they could have taken more time to develop and I would have enjoyed this more.

I did love that so many of the stories had LGBTQ characters. Some of them got together with someone they'd been crushing on and it was pretty adorable. There's also a theme of going for what you want, not letting others hold you back, and living your true self. This is a fun book and super quick to get through.

The audiobook has several narrators to help differentiate each story, which helped a lot. There's also some music which fit the theme well and brought a bit of rock into the book.

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions are my own. Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for the copy
Profile Image for TL .
1,765 reviews35 followers
October 25, 2021
Overall rating based on my gut: 4 stars 🌟

Not every story was a winner for me but none were horrible, just "meh/okay" . A couple writers I may check out down the line:)

I think a recorded soundtrack is an interesting idea 💡 for this *hint hint* ;-)

Individual story ratings:

Cecilia (You're Breaking My Heart) by Ashley Poston : 3 stars 🌟"

Miss Somewhere by Brittany Cavallaro : 3 stars 🌟

Sidelines by Sarah Nicole Smetana: 3.5 stars 🌟"

Battle of the Exes by Sarvenaz Taghavian - 3 stars 🌟

Love is a Battlefield by Shaun David Hutchinson- 3.5 stars 🌟"

You found me by Ashley Woodfolk - 4 stars 🌟

Adventures in babysitting by Justin Courtney Pierre - 4 stars 🌟"

Peanut butter sandwiches 🥪 by Jasmine Warga - 3 stars 🌟

Reckless Love by Jay Coles - 4 stars 🌟"

The Ride by Jenn Marie Thorne - 3 stars 🌟

Three Chords - 3.5 stars 🌟"

Merch to do about nothing by Preeti Chhibber - 2.5 stars 🌟

All these friends and lovers 3 stars 🌟"

A Small light by Jenny Torres Sanchez - 3.25 stars 🌟"

Set the World on Fire by Lauren Gibaldi - 4 stars 🌟

Sisterhood of Light and Sound by Jeff Zentner- 4 stars 🌟"

Profile Image for Avid Reader and Geek Girl.
724 reviews130 followers
September 14, 2021
I received this book free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

I gave this book 4.25 stars

This book had it all! Cute/funny stories and some a bit sadder stories. I'm glad both the authors and the characters are diverse. With some new to me authors as well as some new authors I'd never heard of but now want to check out their other works. The stories wove together beautifully, and everything came full circle which I enjoyed. Though some of the stories I wish were longer or made into their own books!

An overall a great anthology!
Profile Image for Ta || bookishbluehead.
329 reviews20 followers
October 21, 2021
This was one of the best short story collections I read in a while. There wasn’t a story that I didn’t enjoy, some I liked more than others, but I think that’s fair with so many different stories combined in one book.

What I liked most is, that all the stories take place on the same evening and the same event, a battle of the Bands. We met some characters in different stories and, even though they were totally different stories, there was a final story with a conclusion to everything.

If you, like me, want to read more anthologies, I really recommend this book.
Profile Image for Rameela (Star).
646 reviews227 followers
September 3, 2021
Thank you to candlewick press for sending me this book!

Initial Thoughts: I never know how to rate or review anthologies but overall I really enjoyed this!
Profile Image for Sarvenaz Tash.
Author 9 books301 followers
August 30, 2021
I don’t rate my own books so please consider this a rating for the other stories in here and know I HAD to give it 5 stars because this collection is a pure delight. Every story is wonderful in its own right, but how they meld together is both a feat and a treat. So many kudos go to editors Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith for making it so.

And as for me, I just feel honored to be part of something so viscerally joyful.
Profile Image for Ellie M.
252 reviews
Want to read
January 29, 2021
This is reminding me of the old YouTube series "Little White Lie" and I need it more than anything.
Profile Image for Gary Anderson.
Author 1 book83 followers
April 21, 2022
Battle of the Bands (Candlewick Press, 2021) is sixteen interrelated stories by young adult authors revolving around the annual Battle of the Bands contest at Raritan River High School. Contestants include bands, duos, and solo acts, but some of my favorite stories involve off-stage characters, such as the stage manager, tech crew, and merch sellers. Battle of the Bands features diverse perspectives and voices in these stories involving the romantic entanglements and disentanglements of the musicians, as well as their families and friendships. Although uneven in quality, the collection’s most memorable contributions include Ashley Woodfolk’s “You Found Me,” a story about a musical duo and the girl who matters to both of them; Sarvenaz Taghavian’s “Battles of the Exes,” a punk story about a band who lives out its lyrics on stage; and Jeff Zentner’s closing story “The Sisterhood of Light and Sound,” a celebration of tech crew kids. I also liked Preeti Chhibber’s “Merch to Do about Nothing.” It was barely about music at all, but the way Chhibber uses dialogue to convey attitude makes me want to keep an eye out for more of her work. Battle of the Bands is a good reading choice for artsy kids, indie music fans, and those who are far from the center of their school’s popularity trends.
Profile Image for Whitney.
215 reviews12 followers
August 29, 2021
This is an interconnected series of short stories about a concert and a competition: the titular Battle of the Bands... and it was ADORABLE. Despite having entries from 16 different authors, tonally, "Battle of the Bands" felt like one cohesive story: a snapshot of a single night from many different perspectives. This collection is fun, loose, diverse, funny, occasionally sad, but altogether it gets wrapped up in a perfect bow of optimism and charm. I honestly can't prefer any single stories out of this collection; they were all strong (but I did have a soft spot for Cecilia and Roxy). I recommend this book for any music-lover wanting to relive those moments in high school when anything and everything seemed possible. "Battle of the Bands" was a wonderful palette cleanser between heavier works, and utterly sweet to enjoy.

Thank you to Candlewick for my ARC!
Profile Image for Alicia.
1,124 reviews52 followers
August 29, 2022
I will preface this review by saying: I don’t like anthologies. But I always get suckered in by an author I love (or in this case two) that forces me to read the whole thing. Because FOMO.
This one at least has a cohesive event they all centre around, which arguably makes for a mush stronger collection. But there’s so many of them that they’re too short to really tell you much of anything. One twelve page story took place over an entire year. There’s a lot of crushes and falling in love in here, but it’s a diverse range of couples and crushes, not all heteronormative. It was better than I expected and good for what it was.
Profile Image for Alaina.
5,919 reviews216 followers
September 15, 2021

I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'll admit that I was pretty excited to dive into Battle of the Bands once I got accepted. It just seemed like it was going to be a fun book to dive into. With a little bit of rock 'n' roll, and a whole dash of drama toppled over this, you are constantly questioning what the heck is even going on here. Or maybe that's just me?

Now I will also say that I liked the whole battle of the band theme throughout this. Each story was woven so perfectly that it was pretty easy to figure out who the next story was going to be about. Or at least which point of view would be next. Some of the bands were a hot mess though and I honestly had no idea how they were even a band to begin with.

Other than that, I thought some of them were hilarious like the adventures of babysitting. Not sure what I would do with a bunch of kids high on acid but it did seem like everyone was having a blast. I also agree with what was said towards the last two stories about how bands didn't care about starting/having drama before the show. It happens and they deal with it right then and there. Which, in this case, meant lots of bands breaking up.

In the end, I'm glad that I got the chance to dive into this audiobook but it definitely had potential to be a little bit better. Mostly because in some stories it felt like nothing really happened and we were just meeting people that I would never remember down the line.
Profile Image for Nicole.
221 reviews21 followers
September 23, 2021
This is an anthology revolving around a Battle of the Bands competition and each story focuses on different characters at said competition. It's different from any anythology I've read before; all the stories interconnected so well. I would highly recommend this if you're a huge music lover.

But despite me enjoying the majority of the stories, there were just some I didn't care for. So I have to dock down a rating for that. Some of my personal faves were: "Peanut Butter Sandwiches" and "Reckless Love." "Advenutres in Babysitting" was a story I felt uncomfortable with at first, but I will admit got better as it progressed.

Individual ratings: Miss Somewhere 2 ⭐️'s
Cecilia (You're Breaking My Heart) 3.5 ⭐️'s
Sidelines 2 ⭐️'s
Battle of the Exes 4 ⭐️'s
Love is a Battlefield 4 ⭐️'s
You Found Me 3.75 ⭐️'s
Adventures in Babysitting 3.75 ⭐️'s
Peanut Butter Sandwiches 4.5 ⭐️'s
Reckless Love 5 ⭐️'s
The Ride 4 ⭐️'s
Three Cords 3 ⭐️'s
Merch to Do About Nothing 4 ⭐️'s
All These Friends and Lovers 3 ⭐️'s
A Small Light 3 ⭐️'s
Set the World on Fire 3 ⭐️'s
Sisterhood of Lights and Sound 3.5 ⭐️'s

I recieved an audio-galley from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for emma davis.
30 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2021
I’m giving this a 5/5 not because it was flawless, but because reading it was a blast. Ever since a lesson on it in middle school, I’ve been a sucker for the interconnected anthology format. I barely read the first sentence of the summary before buying this book, I needed next to no convincing. It had everything I like, teenage shenanigans, concerts, and an out of the box concept beautifully executed by a diverse group of contributors that all share a common love of writing and music. By the end of the book I found I didn’t even care who won the contest the entire book was based around. But then again, I think that was the point.

Is this book “perfect” in a technical sense? Probably not, but I haven’t taken an English class since 2015 and I admittedly don’t know how to properly use a comma making me one unqualified critic.

Might some people think Battle of the Bands feels disjointed and inconsistent? Maybe. There are 16 authors involved here with all varying degrees of experience in writing. I personally find that to be a beautiful thing, but there are always people who will find something to nitpick.

TL;DR- While some might not find this collection of stories to be a technical 5 star piece of literature, this is my account and I make the rules. What isn’t to love about a revolving door of fun characters through the perspectives of a bunch of music lovers? Bonus points for amazing references ranging from great bands to great anime and multiple jokes poking fun at ska.
Profile Image for Arianna A..
512 reviews59 followers
November 17, 2021
3.5 ★

“Maybe that’s the big secret of success — going out there and just making it happen.”

Me animé a leer este libro para el #TotallyTeenBuddyRead, y me he dado cuenta que no disfruto mucho leyendo compilaciones o historias cortas ya que hay algunas donde no me interesa lo que sucede con los personajes y otras que me gustan y quiero saber más, qué pasará después.

Lo que sí me gustó fue la representación en cada historia y pude descubrir nuevos autores que espero darles una oportunidad, pero ya con sus propios libros.

Sin embargo, había mucho drama para mi gusto y cosas que no tenía sentido en algunas historias y a veces me perdía con los pronombres porque la mayoría estaba contada en primera persona y los nombres de los protas me confundían un poco.

Pero bueno, si les gustan los libros de música y drama escolar, este es su libro.
Profile Image for Jay.
Author 7 books26 followers
September 9, 2021
Battle of the Bands is an anthology of several stories that all revolve around a high school Battle of the Bands. Because these stories are all written by different authors, they're not all created equal. Most of them are good though. My favorite of the stories was "Reckless Love". I loved the bi-positive message in it. The worst of the stories was Adventures in Babysitting which is a dumb story about teenagers doing acid. Mostly this book is a bunch of teenage drama with musical undertones.

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for this ALC. The narrators, too many to list here, all did an amazing job at bringing the stories they narrated to life.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
879 reviews4 followers
October 17, 2022
Honestly, this book had me at Motion City Soundtrack. I love it when a short story anthology has stories that connect with each other and have overlapping characters. I especially liked Love is a Battlefield by Shaun David Hutchinson, A Small Light by Jenny Torres Sanchez, and Battle of the Exes by Sarvenaz Taghavian.
Profile Image for Miguel Valentin.
32 reviews
October 19, 2021
An interesting collection of short stories that revolve around one night. Clever and nostalgic. I was a musician in high school and it brought me back to the days where we thought we were cool. Good read.
Profile Image for Cait.
2,200 reviews4 followers
March 23, 2022
love the concept of this anthology, I'm never going to get sick of reading these teen anthology collections.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews

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