Review: The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus

Posted 07/10/2023 by Charli in Blog Tours, Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Review: The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus

Today is my stop on TBR & Beyond Blog Tours’ blog tour for The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus. This is a YA Contemporary novel set in 1968, during the Vietnam War. There will be some anti-war sentiments, racism, racial violence, and other possibly upsetting things in this book, so please, check the content warnings before reading.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss+ to facilitate my review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may contain material that is disturbing to some readers. Please Google for trigger warnings as I cannot possibly find/relay every trigger warning. Thank you!

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Review: The Vinyl Underground by Rob RufusThe Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus
Published by North Star Editions on 03/20/2020
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Historical / General, Young Adult Fiction / Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction / Historical / United States / 20th Century, Young Adult Fiction / Social Themes / Prejudice & Racism
Pages: 328
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss+
Amazon US // Barnes & Noble // IndieBound

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.

Content Warning: Racial violence and harassment, grief, drug use, underage drinking

When I first saw The Vinyl Underground, I thought it was going to be a book about music. And it is… kind of. Music figures heavily into the book, but the main message of the book and the main plot have nothing to do with music.

I should preface this by saying that my uncles both fought in Vietnam. Both of them volunteered and one of them actually volunteered to go over there twice. My family was lucky – both of my uncles came home. But a lot of my grandparents’ friends lost their son(s) over there. So my feelings on the anti-war sentiments in this book might be a bit biased.

I enjoyed Hana, Milo, Lewis, and Ronnie. I enjoyed them a lot. They were great characters, perfect foils for each other. They made the story what it is. Literally. Without those four, you have no story. But that is especially true of Hana because she is the one who lights the fire under Milo, Lewis, and Ronnie’s butts.

I can’t say that I was overly thrilled with the main point of the plot – which seemed to mostly be finding ways to prevent Milo, Lewis, and Ronnie from being able to be drafted. Honestly, while I agreed with the anti-war sentiment, I was uncomfortable with the idea of draft dodging and dereliction of duty in order to not have to go. That being said, the execution of the plot was done very well and the book was very hard to put down. I read it in just a few hours.

The writing style made this book easy to read. It was paced well and it didn’t come off as overly flowery or overly dry. It was smooth and kept me engaged.

The ending to the book left me as conflicted as Ronnie was. While I could see Hana and Milo’s point, I could also see Ronnie’s point. While I’m obviously not going to tell you what happened or what Ronnie’s conflict was, I can honestly say that I held that conflict as well.

I gave this book 4/5 stars because while the book made me uncomfortable with its plot points, I did quite enjoy the book.

About Rob Rufus

Author Rob Rufus

Rob Rufus is a musician and writer living in Nashville. His band, Blacklist Royals, has released two full-length albums and played in sixteen countries over the past five years. His new project, The Bad Signs, released their first single in 2015. He is the author of Die Young with Me.


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