Thursday, 2 December 2010

Review: I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Dear Blog.
NaNoWriMo is over, which means that I've got more time now for book-reviewing.  All my time got sucked into an infinite void of writing, writing and more writing.  Anyway, it's over now, so you can expect many more reviews from me.

Summary (from Goodreads): A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.
The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones.
Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?

Review: First things first- if there is one thing that you need to know about me it is that I am totally obsessed with music. 
However, armed with a classical guitar and a double bass, Mia of If I Stay is more my calling.  Still, whether it's rock or baroque I love books involving music because no matter what the genre or era or instrument, the passion for the sound and such is the same.  So I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is one of those books that makes me want to punch the air and yell, "heck yeah!"  This is what it's all about. 

I should probably mention that it is in some respects a very clichéd book, and the plot is hugely overdone. There's mothers who abandon their daughters, quests to find aforementioned mothers,  drug addictions, underground venues, stalkers, cigarettes, abuse, and casual sex among other things.  It has all the trademarks of a sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll novel.  Yet it's still enjoyable escapism, and you can't help but want to go along for the ride (especially if you've spent a while trying to conquer something with a title like Etude Opus. 60, no.5 in A Minor) (which I frequently do). 

The star of the show, no wordplay intended, is Emily Black, the tough lead singer in her punk-rock trio She Laughs.  She is for the most part fearless and gutsy, but her emotions are really what drives her-  for instance, she spends a year going across America trying to search for her mother. She's intelligent, I suppose, but you can't help but snort at her impulsive recklessness now and again.  But, well, it wouldn't be any fun if she didn't take such risks, would it?

The story is told through her point of view, most of the time (I'll get to the parts that aren't in a minute). Her voice seems kind of careless, as if looking back on her past she really thinks nothing of everything that she goes through.  She sounds kind of distant, if that makes sense, as if just casually recounting the events of a slightly boring day rather than actually her teenage years up until the age of about twenty-three, the later years of which totally change her life.   But she sounds so calm about it, like, "Yeah, and then my supposed boyfriend tried to kill me, and I had to run away.  It was really no biggie."
There are a few chapters, however, describing the comings and goings on Emily's mother, Louisa, which are told in a distant kind of third-person, portraying her life and coming back to her now and again while Emily is growing up.
I suppose one of my main complaints might be- it takes a very long time  to really get going.  It reminds me a little of The Hunger Games is that the real stuff doesn't come into it until about a hundred pages in.  But the first 100 pages sort of build up to that, describing her childhood and early teen years, and how she had decided that rock-n-roll was the path she wanted to follow from a young age.  It's not exciting, but it's essential, and so worth getting through.
Still, it makes for an interesting read.  It's a teenage book, but I think that those who are now adults who were teens in the 90s, when most of the book takes place, would enjoy it too.  Especially if they were as into music as Emily was. I, however, missed out on this, being a small girl who watched The Wild Thornberrys  at the time.   Such recent times seem kind of unvisited in teenage fiction, so I found it pretty interesting. Like something I missed out on because I was a) too small and b) too busy wishing that my parents had a comvee. not from a small town in the Midwest with a huge empty warehouse in which bands turn up to make music and stagedive. 
Anyway.   Read it, and see for yourself.  You'll either think it's hugely overdone and a shaky sort of debut novel, or else you'll just be able to toss that aside and go along for the ride.
In Three Words: Gritty, musical, exhilarating.
Reccomended for: teenagers...and adults, too.
Rating: 3.5

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