Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

Ugh. The reading slump. Does it happen to you? It happens to me every now and then.  Nothing really grabs me. That's when I binge read the magazines that have been collecting on my iPad. (If you prefer print magazines, or don't want to spend your money on subscriptions, we have a fantastic magazine collection.  This month's Wired magazine in particular was packed with fantastic articles--check it out. It's not just about the latest gizmos.)

Luckily, I eventually (as always) got over my slump, and have found some excellent reads--one in particular.

It's quite obvious that The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is inspired by Justin Bieber (a quote from the Biebster opens the book).  Jonny Valentine is a prepubescent pop music sensation. His first album was a monstrous hit, he plays sold-out stadiums, and he can buy anything his heart (or his mother's) heart desires.

But there's a problem. Jonny's sophomore album didn't sell so hot. Oh, he still has his obsessive fans who freak out over everything he does, but the record company executives have basically told him that he needs to step it up. His publicity team tries different angles--a homecoming video on a popular showbiz news show, during which he is awkwardly reunited with his former best friend, a meticulously planned "date" with a rising teen star (and possibly a way into the Latino market for Jonny), and a more "mature" look and act for Jonny.

Jonny is the top pop star of his generation, but he rarely has any contact, much less a real friendship, with anyone his own age (a scene in which older teens make fun of his music is notable).  He sings banal songs--but he's actually a gifted musician (not that the record company is interested in letting him show that any time soon). His mom (who is also his manager) is ruthless about his diet and exercise, especially when he sneaks candy. His opening act introduces him to unsavory activities.   And for the first time, he's getting some negative publicity for his performance on and off the stage.  He has a choice--go to school, take a break from the music industry, and be a "normal" kid for a while, or work even harder at his career, and hope that he can squeeze a few more years out of the short-lived life of a teen pop star career. Especially since teen pop acts are a dime a dozen, and his main rival is even more focused than he is.

Teddy Wayne tells the story through Jonny's voice, which is a remarkable achievement. He has written an authentic and achingly believable preteen boy voice.  The isolating and exploitative life of the child star is brilliantly portrayed,  and the manipulations of the publicity machine and business side of the music industry are craftily created.  This is a darkly comic, occasionally quite disturbing, and frequently heartbreaking novel that has received an avalanche of well-deserved praise.

(Edit: This is housed in our adult fiction collection--this is not a YA book.)


Ms. Yingling said...

I have reading slumps at least once a month, but I try to power through. I'll have to take a look at thus book, although it sounds like it might date quickly.

Jennifer Schultz said...

This isn't a YA book--it's written for adults. Other than the Bieber quote, there's no mention of comtemporary groups/singers/etc.