Review: The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus

The Vinyl Underground
by Rob Rufus

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Publication date: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Flux
Format: ARC from Netgalley
Genre: Historical fiction, teens & YA

From Goodreads:
Dig it.
During the tumultuous year of 1968, four teens are drawn together: Ronnie Bingham, who is grieving his brother’s death in Vietnam; Milo, Ronnie’s bookish best friend; “Ramrod,” a star athlete who is secretly avoiding the draft; and Hana, the new girl, a half-Japanese badass rock-n-roller whose presence doesn’t sit well with their segregated high school.
The four outcasts find sanctuary in “The Vinyl Underground,” a record club where they spin music, joke, debate, and escape the stifling norms of their small southern town. But Ronnie’s eighteenth birthday is looming. Together, they hatch a plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted. But when a horrific act of racial-charged violence rocks the gang to their core, they decide it’s time for an epic act of rebellion.

My thoughts


I'm not a historical fiction nor a history buff at all so I wasn't even aware of the Vietnam war. If I learned about it, I remember nothing at all. I requested this book anyway because the premise sounded good and different from what I read. I'm glad i gave this a go even though I didn,t connect with it the way I could have.

It's 1968. Ronnie's brother Bruce died during the Vietnam war and he fears that when he turns 18, he's going to be drafted as well. Hana is a half Japanese girl, completely anti-war and to the point of protesting against it violently, and her parents make her move to Florida to try and make her stop. Bruce's best friend Ramrod, purposely fails at school so he won't be drafted. All together with Milo, they form this club called The Vinyl Underground and the purpose was to mainly listen to music but then it becomes more than that. They plot a scheme that will help Ronnie get disqualified from the draft.

The Vinyl Underground has a strong setting and the world building for this story is very well done since it is based on a real event (the war). As for the characters, I thought they were built up nicely but I had a few issues with Hana. The Asian representation was definitely good and totally believable but I had a hard time understanding her at times. Maybe it's the some of the character development, maybe it's something else. I'm not too sure. Characters like Lewis could have benefited in to more development though but he's only secondary so I guess it's alright. Also, I'm not sure if it's the time period or the restrictions of school or what exactly but I have a hard time believing that teens would be able to skip school as many times as these kids did without consequences?!

Like I said, I'm not a history buff so I did have a hard time connecting to the idea of war and drafting but I did like that this book touched on racial discrimination, preferential treatment and other subject. Pretty sure that I would have liked this better had I been more knowledgeable with events like this, however. This would probably deserve a reread from me but I won't go out of my way to get it to read again.

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