Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Sixteen - Ballads of Suburbia

Finally a book that I really loved! Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert really resonated with me. When we start out with this book, we find out that our central charachter, Kara, left town after overdosing on heroin in her junior year. She has now cleaned up and is returning to her home town after being away for four years. After the first chapter we head back to the past and we get to meet lots of intriguing people along the way.

Aside from Kara, the book also has little vignettes, or ballads as the book refers to them. One of the kids kept a notebook that people would write their personal stories in, and those are our windows into the other characters secrets.

The kids that we are following are in a suburban neighborhood called Oak Park, near Chicago. Kara and her family move there when she is in second grade. She is shy and has trouble making friends until she meets Stacey who becomes her best friend until 8th grade when she moves away and they mostly drift apart. After she reconnects with her younger brother, she ends up meeting a new girl in town, Maya and the two of them become good friends. Maya introduces Kara to a local park where all the misfit type of kids hang out and there we find the rest of the characters that fill out our story.

This book is heavily influenced by music, in fact the book is arranged like a ballad, with different sections being labelled verse, chorus, etc. There are many well chosen quotes at the start of different sections as well. I am a big music lover, and I grew up at the same time as Kara so it was great for me to be right back there in my own past through this book. Kara and her brother Liam even went to the same Lollapalooza that I did.

This book made me laugh, cry and smile. Knowing where the story was pretty much going to end from the get go was very effective here. There were still a lot to learn about these characters and the resolution of the stories was very satisfying. I am really wanting to read Kuehnert's other book now (I wanna be your Joey Ramone), but sadly my library does not carry it and the local Chapters stores are all sold out of it. Ah well, I will keep my eyes out for it

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