Rock On

ROCK ON by Denise Vega

“Vega has imbued her tale with well-developed characters…readers will appreciate Ori’s gently self-deprecating humor and the lively Web postings and texts woven throughout that help tell the story.”- KIRKUS REVIEWS

“This is a smart, absorbing read about music, relationship complexities, and reconciliation.”- BOOKLIST


Ori’s website

HEY YOU, ROCKIN’ READERS! Check out my Reader Rap YouTube Channel where I answer some of the questions you have about books, life, love, etc! I will always reply to comments you post here, but the channel is a fun way to connect as well. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss new videos!
Shy but talented Orion Taylor dreams of rock glory so when his Yet-To-Be-Named garage band has a chance to compete in the high school Battle of the Bands, he throws himself into his music. Just as he’s beginning to find his voice and confidence, his disillusioned older brother, Del, returns home and seems determined to sabotage his life and dreams. Can Ori learn to believe in himself enough to fight for his music, the girl he loves (and come up with a band name) before it’s too late?

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It’s clear you love music. Do you play any instruments or write music?

Neither. I did pick up the flute for about two weeks in fifth or sixth grade because my friend played one. My parents were nice enough to buy me a second-hand one, but it didn’t last. Unlike Orion, I was lazy about practicing.

I don’t write music, but I’ve always written poetry so thought writing lyrics would be easy. But it’s actually a different process in many ways. You have to remember that there will be a singer/musician involved who can stretch or shrink a word or phrase to make it cover several beats of music or very few. When I first wrote the lyrics for “Waiting for You,” I worked really hard to get the rhyme and meter just right. But then I read two books on lyric writing and started over completely with the song! Not only did I leave room for the music, but I was lucky enough to have very talented singer-songwriters who brought a vision to the song that I didn’t have. It was wonderful!

Is there a song or band that inspired the idea for this book?

It was actually two things – my overall love for music and my fascination with the relationships of brothers I saw around me. My husband grew up with two brothers and told me lots of stories about what they did to him (they were both older) and also how they were there for him. And I’ve been watching brothers interact all around me through friends and family. Their relationships are very different from sisters (I have three), often with a fierce loyalty unmatched in other relationships.

This is the first time you’ve written a book with a male as the main character. Was it harder to write from the male perspective?

Even though I’ve been around guys all my life and often preferred their company to that of girls, I was still nervous about writing from a guy’s point of view. The whole time I was working on the book I only read young adult novels by men with a male protagonist to help keep me in the groove. I also got advice from my son and got to the point where I could hear his voice saying “A guy wouldn’t say that” during my writing. I’m sure I slipped a few times, but hopefully I did Orion justice. He became very real to me – a mix of teen boys I know with a little bit of my own rock and roll fantasies thrown in there.

Is Orion like you at all?

Orion and I share the same passion for our art. For him it’s music, for me it’s writing. We both can go into the “zone,” getting lost in our music or words in such a way that the outside world disappears. It was easy for me to write those scenes when he gets lost in his music because I knew what it felt like to get lost in my stories. I also love to listen to music and it can transport me as well so I used those experiences to write his. I was also a little tongue-tied around guys I liked, just like Ori has a hard time talking to girls. On the other hand, I was never shy about getting up in front of people to read from my books or speak, whereas Ori has trouble with that.

How long did it take you to write Rock On?

That’s a good question. It actually started out as a different book, less about Orion and his brothers and more about his obsession with a girl, with a bit of music thrown in. After my critique group gave me feedback, I went back through it and realized I had two novels in one book. Crazy, but true. I was trying to tell two different stories and I needed to pick one. I came across a slip of paper where I’d written something about the brothers and decided that’s what I wanted to focus on besides the music. So, in January 2010 I started the novel completely over and finished a decent draft about 10-11 months later – the fastest I’ve ever written a novel. But it took about eighteen months to get to that place so overall it was over two years. Yikes!

Did anything in this book happen to you?

Except for occasionally fantasizing about being on stage at Red Rocks (which I have been, just not when there’s been an audience – anyone can go there on off days), Orion’s life is pretty far removed from mine. But the love of music, listening to it, letting it take you places – that’s definitely a part of my life even today. Music is on A LOT in our house.

Are any of the characters based on people you know?

The main characters all have elements of me and teens I know, but I don’t want to be specific so I can protect the guilty! Gwyn came to me after I read about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist from Scotland. I did a little research and there are a few deaf bass players out there so Gwyn was born. But it was important to me that her deafness not be the only thing that defined her—it’s just one aspect of who she is.

Orion’s talent is based on my brother, John, who had a few guitar lessons but has basically always played by ear. John wrote his own songs, wrote and starred in a musical when he was in high school, and later was in a band when he lived in San Diego. Unlike Orion, though, my brother has no problem performing in public!


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“Readers will feel like they have insider information on what it is like to be in a band…This book will be enjoyed by teens who like music, poetry, or a good family story.”  –VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

“In this thoughtful tale, sibling rivalry is taken to the next level. Both Ori and Del prove to be likable characters in their own respective ways… A true strength of this title proves to be supporting character Gwyn, who is seamlessly integrated into the story without making her deafness debilitating.” – School Library Journal

“Ori’s honest voice will have readers caring about the outcome…Blog entries from the band’s Web site are interspersed, giving an amusing glimpse of the drama among the band’s budding groupies, while third-person flashbacks to Ori’s younger days take readers behind the music—and behind Ori and Del’s strained relationship.” – Publishers Weekly

“Vega has imbued her tale with well-developed characters…readers will appreciate Ori’s gently self-deprecating humor and the lively Web postings and texts woven throughout that help tell the story.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Ori is a three-dimensional, relatable protagonist whose first-person narrative conveys, with humor and heart, his hopes and insecurities, as well as his journey to find confidence and realize what matters, both onstage and off…This is a smart, absorbing read about music, relationship complexities, and reconciliation.” –Booklist

“It’s a welcome relief to have a girl and a boy in a book be true friends, just friends, strictly platonic, period. … It’s characters like these that make you either grateful for your best friend or make you wish you had a best friend.” –Little Willow

“It would be easy to simply peg Rock On as an easy, breezy read about music and first love. But, like Jacyln Moriarty’s books, Vega’s collage-style novel…is a quick, entertaining read that features three-dimensional characters in occasionally hilariously-over-the-top (yet still believable) situations who deal realistically with complicated emotions.” –Bookshelves of Doom

“The best thing about this story was the music, so anyone passionate about playing or listening to music will enjoy it.” –Olivia Brett, NextGen

“I think Denise Vega did an excellent job of writing the voice of a geeky band boy… It’s funny and lighthearted with a sprinkling of serious moments thrown in and tossed together.” – Kristen Evey

“Vega parlays her love of music — not many author bios cite a frequent-flyer card at Denver’s legendary Red Rocks amphitheater — into a lively, accessible take on sibling rivalry and surviving high school with a sense of self intact.  Peppered with texts, Web posts and emails, “Rock On” just might be the quintessential summer read for the Live Music Capital of the World.” –Sharyn Vane,

“Engaging and smartly paced….Vega has a way with details, creating a pattern of incidents and emotional beats that builds assuredly to the final face-offs between bands and brothers. Likable three-dimensional characters and rock-solid friendships add considerable appeal to this feel-good tale.” –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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  1. Hey giiirrrl! I just wanted to say that you are a great author!! And I love the book click here I have already read it like 5 times, I just wanted to ask can you may possibly make a second book for click here and tell of how she survived eight grade plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and how did Erin make her blog like that? because I want to start my own blog to, and how did she make a it private so she can see? But I really love the book it has inspired me to get into technology and a web master!! I love your books!!

    • So sorry for the delayed reply! We had two graduations in our fam and I’m still catching up on a lot of things. SO psyched you like the book so much.

      And you’re in luck because I already wrote a second book about Erin in 8th grade. It’s called ACCESS DENIED (and other eighth grade error messages). You can read more about it on the Click Here/Access Denied page.

      As for her blog, I created in on which is free to anyone who signs up for it! In the book, she keeps in on her hard drive using local software, but you can set posts to private online or only let certain people read them.

      Thank you so much for writing. I LOVE your enthusiasm and am excited that it inspired you to get creative with technology! xoxo

  2. What do other authors think of you?

    • Hmm. That’s not a question I’ve ever asked myself or gotten asked :-). What prompted it?

    • Other authors like myself LOVE Denise, and her writing.

      • Ah, thanks, Lauren! Love you too. Can’t wait for your new one, LIES I LIVE BY! May can’t come soon enough (except I have two kids graduating so maybe it can )

  3. First off I would like to say that Rock on ROCKED. You are such an AMAZING writer! This is absolutely one of my favorite books. It was so good I almost don’t want to turn it back in to the library. The world felt so real and it was easy to understand because I could connect with it easily. Secondly this book greatly inspired me to pick up music too. Like everyone one else’s comments I would also like to see a sequel to this story!!! Anyways I just wanted to show my appreciation for the amazing book you wrote it’s really hard finding stories like this for me. ROCK ON Denise!!!!!!!!

    • Thank you SO much! I’m so happy you loved the book – I loved writing it. And how cool that you were inspired to pick up music – wow! Are you playing an instrument? Singing? Both? Tell me more! I do miss those characters so maybe there will be a sequel at some point…we shall see! I’m excited about my current projects and want to get those finished.

  4. Hi Denise! I’ve never really done this before but I loved the book so much that I just had to ask – have you ever thought of writing a sequel for Rock On? Like to go more into depth on B.A.S’s rise to stardom? I just wanted to know because this book made me excited and light and tingly and sometimes I felt so overwhelmed with how touching this book was. The relationship between Orion and Del was perfectly described in my opinion, even making me remember times were my sisters and I were at odds with each other. You don’t know how many times this book has inspired me to learn new songs on my guitar just by reading Ori’s passion for music. This book has inspired me to write a novel similar to this (not that it could match yours). So I was just wondering if you ever thought about/plan to write another one in the near future.

    Thanks for listening,

    • Alanis,

      I moved your comment to the ROCK ON page so other readers of the book who go there will see it :-).

      I’m so happy you wrote and that you loved the book enough to want the story to continue! YOU rock! I hadn’t considered writing a sequel, but I’ll definitely think about it. I could see myself maybe writing a short story or two of what happens after, possibly from the viewpoint of other characters – that’s what I’m considering for CLICK HERE & ACCESS DENIED. It’s so cool how it inspires you to work on your own music – that is SO awesome! And inspiring you to write…as an author it doesn’t get much better than that!

      I will definitely consider a sequel – thanks so much for taking time to write!

  5. Hi! Your books are AMAZ-ING! I’ve read Click Here, Access Denied, Rock On (twice) and I want to read Fact of Life. I think my favorite, even if I do love Erin, would HAVE to be Rock On, no competition. Ori and the gang are awesome, I nearly died when Del almost smashed the Les Paul, and BAS? YOU. ARE. GENIUS. I bask in your glory! I’m serious. You are my new favorite author, and I read a lot so it is VERY hard to earn that spot! Rock On has also inspired my love of music soooo much, and if i ever become famous, I’m dedicating it to you! Keep writing. ~MaKenzie

    • I can’t tell you what your comments mean to me. I love Ori so much, and everyone in his world and I can tell you totally get what I was trying to do with that book–THANK YOU. I’m thrilled and honored to have become your new favorite author and when you become famous–or successful in any way you define it–I’ll be there with you, cheering you on.

      See it. Believe it. Live it.

      Happy weekend, darlin’!

  6. I finished Rock On at literally midnight last night, and all I want to say is: OMIGOSH I love you! I’ve completely fallen in love with Ori and the gang, and BAS is amazing! Reading Rock On has really gotten me more into music. I’m starting to focus on piano more, I’m practicing my singing and songwriting, and I’m even trying to learn acoustic guitar! If I ever become famous, I am SO dedicating it to you!

    • Thank you so much! I love, love, LOVE that the book has gotten you more into your music. That is so fantastic. When you’ve got some music to share with the world, I’ll be first in line to buy it! So happy you’re pursuing your artistic dreams…

  7. Hi Denise-
    CJ here – librarian at Henry World School in Denver. I’ve finally been able to sit down and read Rock On! and am rockin’ nostalgic big time! My daughter was in a rock band in high school; I can completely relate to the garage/basement rehearsals – I can tell you’ve been to a few…
    Just wanted to comment on your reference to Evelyn Glennie in Rock On. I otherwise wouldn’t have recognized the name and her incredible talent at playing percussion though she’s profoundly deaf, save for the fact that my daughter (aforementioned) holds her as her role model; she even plays barefooted whenever possible. She’s studying at NIU – Music Education and Performance with…gasp…a minor in English Lit!
    The level of background research you do to make your writing that much more authentic is admirable and absolutely worthy of recognition; keep up the great writing, and whimsical connection to the real world!

    • Cheryl! How great that you took time to let me know. I’ve been back from vacation for a week and am still catching up. Love that your daughter was in a band in high school and how amazing that she held Evelyn Glennie up as a role model – that is AMAZING! And how wonderful that she’s majoring and minoring in what she loves. I’d love to hear how things go with her.
      Thanks for your lovely compliments – I work hard, though I also make mistakes. But it’s such a fun process! Have a great rest of the year.

  8. I read this book and got totally hooked onto it! It’s a fantastic book! Wished that it could have been longer hehehe. Hope to be able to read similar books in the future. Rock on!

    • Hooray! Thanks so much for taking time to let me know. I had a lot of fun writing that book (once I figured out what story I was trying to tell and started over!). This may be one that I’ll use for inspiration for other stories with the same characters. That would be fun. But here’s a secret: if you go to the main page and scroll down, you’ll find a link to some extras – like deleted scenes! BTW, if you liked this, you will probably like my other books if you haven’t read them already so check them out!

    • Woo hoo! Speaking of length…I’m hoping to do some related stories to ROCK ON and my other books so I’m glad you wished it were longer and the story went on!

  9. I just finished reading Rock On! I almost couldn’t stop reading it! I’ve read Access Denied and Click Here and thinking about reading Fact of Life #31

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