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Children's Fiction Music

Totally Unrelated

by (author) Tom Ryan

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2013
Music, Friendship, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Neil plays guitar with his family's band, the Family McClintock, even though he can't stand the Celtic music they play, he doesn't dance, he hates the outfits, and every single performance reminds him that he isn't as talented as the rest of the family.
When his buddy Bert convinces him to form a rock band and enter a local talent show, Neil's playing improves and everyone notices, including a girl who shares his musical interests. He starts to think that all those years of practice might come in handy after all. But it all comes to a head when Neil has to choose between an important gig with the family band and the talent show. He's only sure of one thing: whatever he decides to do, he's going to be letting someone down.

About the author

Tom Ryan is the award-winning author of several acclaimed books for young readers. He has been nominated for multiple awards, including the White Pine Award, the Ann Connor Brimer Award and the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. His YA mystery Keep This to Yourself was the winner of the 2020 ITW Thriller Award for Best YA Thriller and the 2020 Arthur Ellis Award for Best YA Crime Book. Two of his books were Junior Library Guild selections, and three of his young adult novels, Way to Go, Tag Along and Keep This to Yourself, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013, 2014 and 2020. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction. Tom, his husband and their dog live in Nova Scotia.


Tom Ryan's profile page


  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Award nominee
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books
  • Commended, Junior Library Guild selection

Editorial Reviews

“Ryan writes well, and there’s a positive underlying message about following your own path while honouring other responsibilities and commitments...Given how many kids dream of stardom, the Limelights series is sure to hold wide appeal.”

Quill & Quire

"Ryan uses simple language to create rich characters that stick with you long after you are finished reading the story. Readers can identify with Neil's struggles and his journey—the self-doubt and lack of direction. Bert, Sandy, and 'the Beast' are gorgeously drawn supporting characters who help Neil see beyond his own perceptions and reach for the dreams he didn't know he had."

Resource Links

"Neil’s voice is honest, with a touch of sarcasm and lack of self-perception that is appropriate for this age. Ryan wisely uses his other characters to flesh out Neil’s blind spots for the reader...The plot moves quickly as the reader follows Neil’s rising excitement about shows...Highly Recommended."

CM Magazine

"Any reader who has ever taken lessons in anything—whether it be artistic or not—will appreciate Neil’s struggles and will completely understand the personal and family pressure he feels to perfect his craft. Readers will also appreciate the conflict he feels between family obligation and personal interests, and the author resolves the situation in a satisfying and realistic manner...This innovative series offers something for all kinds of readers whether they are directly involved in the performing arts or not. They are short, fast-paced and well executed—stories perfect for fans of performing arts-focused television shows such as Glee."

Canadian Children's Book News

"A quick, enjoyable read, perfect for reluctant readers who like a 'feel good' story...Deals with subjects such as relationships, families, commitments, conflict and perserverance—a refreshing change."

Sheila Cornelisse, Learning Commons Informationist

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