Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sorta Like a Rock Star : a review

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick (2009)

Amber Appleton lives in a bus with her alcoholic mom and hangs out with a group of misfits who call themselves Franks Freak Force Federation. When she’s not with them, she teaches the Korean Divas for Christ to speak English by singing the Supremes’ hits, visits a local nursing home to entertain residents by trading insults with cantankerous Joan of Old, and hangs out with a Vietnam vet who writes haikus. She spends her spare time (ha ha) with her dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka BBB or B Thrice), and her substitute mother figure Donna. She is positive and hopeful, but her outlook is put to the test when tragedy strikes.

I heard a lot of buzz about this book. Despite my expectations, I had a hard time getting into it. About halfway through there is a game-changing moment that I thought would infuse more reality into the story. Amber is pretty much destroyed and then slowly recovers, I think a little too perfectly – I felt like she should have been changed more by her experience but she managed to return to exactly the optimistic, inspiring person she was before.

Amber didn’t ever feel real enough to me. I found it hard to believe that a girl her age would have so many extra-curricular activities, and that most of them involved hanging out with adults. Maybe if I lived on a bus, I’d fill my time that way too, but I still found her larger than life and pictured her more like a cartoon character than a real person. More realistic was her overuse of catch phrases. “True? True.” I know that is how teenagers talk (and adults, for that matter) but it’s annoying in real life too. Amber is pretty religious and I think that aspect of her character was written well – she isn’t preachy or sentimental, and doesn’t even attend church, but ascribes to her own form of casual energetic spirituality.

I wanted to love this book like so many other readers, and I’m disappointed that I only liked it. But it’s pretty fresh and unique and filled with fun characters, so I do recommend it if you like YA books. Maybe you will love it.

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