Young Adult - Coming of Age
297 Pages
Reviewed on 04/13/2023
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Author Biography

L. B. Carl is a coffee addict transforming caffeine into YA books. She loves chocolate, listening to power metal (yes, really), and because of her Transylvania ancestry, has a soft spot for vampires and bats. She splits her time between the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest (and the occasional cruise).

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Headstrong is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, romance, and coming-of-age subgenres. It is intended for young adult readers but can easily be enjoyed by adult readers too, and contains some mild sexual references and the occasional use of explicit language. Penned by author L. B. Carl, we enter a world of bad boys, music, and high school drama in the year 1975. As the renegade Matt Jerue does his best to improve his popularity status and achieve his dreams of rocking out in a guitar band, he and his forever-crush Taryn McIntyre are thrown together by mutual friends. And when Taryn needs help, Matt finally sees his chance to change her opinion of him for the better.

Author L. B. Carl has penned a fantastic recent-history YA drama that captures all of the same emotional drama as a modern classic but throws us back into a time of emerging rock bands and the dreams that kids of the seventies had about making it big. I found Matt to be an immensely likable and relatable antihero, misunderstood by many but with a true heart that finally has a chance to emerge. His emotive journey is well supported by the narrative and dialogue skills of the author so that we never feel bored or spoon-fed by his emotional exposition but feel it emerging naturally through the challenges and conversations of the plot. I loved the energy of the piece and the sense of music, atmosphere, and nostalgia that leaps from it. Overall, I would highly recommend Headstrong for YA romance and drama fans everywhere, and I can’t wait to see what more comes from this brilliant new series.

Stephanie Chapman

Headstrong by L.B. Carl features Matt Jerue, who was wondering how he could ask Taryn out on a date. Matt, Chris, and Rahn were watching a football game when Rahn announced he was going to date Kellye. After the game, Rahn drove them to the local hangout for high school students. In awe, Matt and Chris watched Kellye agree to go out with Rahn. Kellye then prompted Matt to talk to Taryn and ask her out, but her friends interjected and told him to go away. Before he could return to his table, two seniors intercepted him, and a fight ensued. The following school day, Matt had gained in popularity. This confidence boost helped him form their band. Rahn's father encouraged the boys by allowing them to practice at his house. But Matt still had feelings for Taryn and was curious as to why she didn't like him.

L.B. Carl penned a story that shows how high school cliques operate. Matt, Chris, and Rahn were called "heads," which classified them as stoners or drug addicts. This term was used when other students would mock the group. Oddly, Rahn was elevated in status because of his rich family. Matt’s parental guidance was lacking and I could understand why he had self-doubts and questioned his ability to love. The transitions between every event that occurred were easy to follow. The dialogue between the boys did not seem forced, and their personalities were distinctive. I found the vivid descriptions of the surroundings and the music to be filled with emotion. Unexpected, shocking twists kept me on edge. This unpredictable story concluded in a way that I would never have imagined. I recommend Headstrong to readers who enjoy following the development of the outsider.

Rabia Tanveer

Headstrong is the first installment in the Headstrong series by L. B. Carl. It’s 1975, and our protagonist Matt Jerue is slowly surviving high school. However, the 15-year-old seems to attract trouble everywhere he goes. Matt lives alone at home because his parents are never there. At school, he is constantly bullied, and apart from his friends, Chris and Rahn, Matt has no one. He smokes and has a bad reputation, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming of two big goals. He wants to play guitar in a band and date the girl of his dreams, cheerleader Taryn McIntyre. She despises him, but Matt adores her. However, things change when their friends start dating, and suddenly Taryn and Matt are always together. The story takes a turn when Taryn gets in trouble, and Matt finally has a chance to prove himself to her. But can he show Taryn who he is when trouble seems to find him?

Entertaining and written to perfection, Headstrong is an excellent coming-of-age young adult story of a young man trying to find a place to call his own. Matt is not in a good space when the story begins. He dreams big, but he is insecure about everything. The only things Matt is sure about are his feelings for Taryn and his musical abilities. They seem to be the lifelines he clings to for most of the story. L. B. Carl writes short yet impactful chapters that encourage us to read on. I like how Matt interacts with his friends and then turns the charm on for Taryn. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like Taryn in the beginning, but things change as the plot progresses. Emotions run high, and you cannot help but feel sympathy for Matt as he struggles with his sensitivity, feelings, and insecurities that haunt him every step of the way. The narrative style is fun, the pace is fast, and the ending is fantastic. I cannot wait for Headstrong II!