Thursday, July 23, 2009
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
Release Date: Available Now from MTV Books
Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....
Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.
I loved Kuehnert's first book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, which I reviewed here, so I was very excited for this one and I was in no way disappointed. Ballads of Suburbia is a fantastic book and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
I graduated from a Midwestern high school in the nineties. I'm a couple years older than the kids in this book are, but for the most part, they are of my generation. The music mentioned in this book is the same stuff I was listening to at the time and am still listening to today. Kuehnert's work transports me to another time and I can't get enough of it.
Her writing is incredibly powerful and each separate "ballad" in the book captures that power. Each of these vivid character studies link seamlessly together to tell the story of not just this group of lost souls, but of an entire generation. At the heart of the story is Kara, who without knowing it, really holds the group together. As she starts to lost touch, we see her world crumbling around her and we are powerless to stop it.
Ballads perfectly portrays that slippery slope of adolescence. It's so easy to lose your way when everything and everyone around you is changing so rapidly. Often as teenagers, I think there's this fear that if we don't catch up, we'll be passed by, at least that's how I felt in high school. This was just a really moving book and at its heart it is very hopeful and optimistic.
It seems really bold to call someone the voice of a generation, but that's how I see Kuehnert. I may not have shared the experiences of the characters in the book, but I recognize their journey and their voices. Stephanie Kuehnert is amazing and I will gladly read anything she writes from here on out.