Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Plot Summary: 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?

I’ve been hearing buzz around this book for quite some time now. I checked it out from the library a few months ago, but things got busy and I didn’t get to read it before the due date. Before I could renew it, someone else had requested it so it went back, sadly unread. But I checked it out again and made sure to finish it well before the due date, and I’m glad I did.

This is a very unique story, told from the perspective of a teenage girl in first person *and* her mom in third person. Such atypical structure must have made it a tough sell, but I’m glad it sold because it’s a wonderfully engaging story.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Mistakes that parents pass on to their kids. They don’t mean for it to happen, but it does, and this book is a fantastic example of that. The parallels between Emily and her mother tell us where the story is going to go. Emily falls into the same kinds of mistakes that her mother made, except for one difference. Emily is able to return home, and her mother isn’t.

I think this captures the essence of parenthood in that we try not to be like our parents, but doing just that because it’s what we know. And yet, we can take a piece of ourselves and make at least a small difference. Maybe even take a step toward breaking the pattern of mistakes that our parents made. This is what Emily does, and it was great to see the whole story laid out like this.

The execution of the story was done well, though there are some ‘first author’ mistakes sprinkled throughout. I didn’t care for the mother’s info-dump about why she left home. And some of the messages toward the end of the book seemed a bit heavy-handed. But, overall, this didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book. If you like studying the effects of relationships between parents and their children, you’ll probably enjoy this story. Though keep in mind that it's definitely upper YA, as it has a lot of bad language, sex, and drug use.


Marcia said...

I'll probably skip this, at least for right now, but I like the premise. I think I may have seen a YA third person/first person book before, but can't name it. (First saw it in Leon Uris's TRINITY in the 70s, so it's gotta hit YA by now, right? :)) Since the mom is distant, it sounds like that structure makes sense. Kids doing what their parents do, even as they decry it, because it's what they know, is also a theme of A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET. Great post!

PJ Hoover said...

I have heard SO much good about this book. Yet I still hesitate and I have no idea why it hasn't creeped higher on my TBR list.
Great review!

Carrie Harris said...

I remember when this came out, and it's right up my alley. Why haven't I read it yet?

(Because I'm a ditz, that's why. Just another reason I like reading your blog... you remind me of books I've forgotten!)

Christina Farley said...

Interesting book. I think it would hard to write two such opposing POV.

Tabitha said...

Marcia - I loved A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET. Very powerful book, and the theme was shown to the reader very effectively, evoking lots of sympathy for the main character. JOEY RAMONE does too, though it has more 'first novel' issues.

PJ - if you like parent/child issues, this is a must read! It's graphic with the language and such, and doesn't exactly set a good example for teenage girls. But it's still a great book. I really enjoyed it.

Carrie - get a copy and start reading! :)

Christina - yeah, I thought so too at first. But the parallels are so strong that we discover they're not so opposing after all. But that happens gradually, so it's very effective. It's a good book. :)

Unknown said...

...another one for my TBR pile!

Mary Witzl said...

Although I don't generally care for books with a lot of bad language, I have to say that a book about a punk band WITHOUT bad music would be pretty strange. And this book's premise sounds great.

The phrase 'mother's information dump' made me cringe. I've got one of those myself and I'm trying to get rid of it right now...