Tag Archives: Books about Music

Beige – Cecil Castellucci
Book Reviews
December 5, 2009 posted by Nikki

Beige – Cecil Castellucci

When she is exiled to Los Angeles to spend two weeks with her dad – whom she knows mainly from a bunch of postcards – Katy figures she’ll smile politely and then bury her head in a book. But Katy’s dad is the Rat, the drummer for the infamous band Suck. Thrust into the city’s punk rock scene, Katy finds it hard to be so nice, especially with doom-and-gloom Lake, her father’s idea of a chaperone, ordering her around. Katy could let it all out like everyone else – pound on the skins and the cymbals, shout and scream onstage – but music is dangerous and Katy isn’t that kind of girl. So what kind of girl is she?

Katy and her mom are a team. They’ve always done everything together – everything. So when Katy’s mom tells her that she’s going on a research trip without her, Katy can hardly believe it. She really can’t believe it when she learns that she’s being shipped off to L.A for two weeks to stay with her dad.

The Rat aint going to be winning any prizes for Father Of The Year any time soon. He’s barely had anything to do with Katy her whole life. He tried to cross the border into Canada to see her once, but he got kicked out for life for attempting to carry drugs into the country. That’s the kind of guy he was – the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll type. He may have kicked the drugs and the booze now, but rock ‘n’ roll is something you just can’t kick. For The Rat, rock ‘n’ roll is in his blood. There is no living if you’re living a rockless life. He may still drum for a living, but he’s clean now and The Rat is determined to show Katy that he’s just a normal guy who wants a relationship with his only kid. As normal as any punk rock drummer can be, anyway.

But Katy isn’t having it. No sir. Why would she bother? He got her mom hooked on drugs. He was never there for her, ever. Apart from the fact that he’s the drummer in a pretty successful L.A based punk band, she barely knows anything about this guy. Why does she have to play the father-daughter game now?

Then she finds out that she has to stay for the whole summer, instead of the intended two weeks. Oh man. What a freaking nightmare.

I swear, my heart goes out to The Rat. He really does try and make a good go of it with Katy, but their lives are so different, so disconnected, that bumpy times are unavoidable. Katy could use a bit of a slap around the ears if you ask me. I think her reasons for being so bitter are genuine, I really do, but is all the whining really necessary? In a very fifteen-year-oldesque manner, Katy finds the darkness, the terrible, in absolutely everything. Having said that, I’m actually pretty glad that Beige was written through Katy’s perspective rather than anyone else’s. I identify with her more than any other character – crazy, unbearable whining aside. I enjoyed her journey a whole lot, and towards the end I actually felt a little excited about her triumph. The kid learns to loosen up a little and see life for what it really is – life. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky read, but it certainly left me feeling good.

If you’re into a bit of punk rock, then I think you’ll get an extra kick out of this one. The chapters are titled with awesome rocking song titles and punk rock references pepper the pages of this contemporary read. When the book kicks off, Katy’s affiliation with music or punk rock is zippo. Nada. Zilch. She knows nothing music, and doesn’t want to know anything either. But as her personal journey is carved out in the pages of this story, so is her musical education. At the back of the novel, Castellucci has compiled a playlist of punk rock tracks that Katy – I’m assuming the Katy that emerges at the end, rather than the beginning – gets down and rocks out to. I had a whole lot of fun downloading and listening to her journey, as well as reading the words on the page.

Beige is like any good punk rock song should be – dirty, angry, and straight to the point. Cecil Castellucci will rock your socks off with this one.

Rating : ★★★★☆

Book Reviews
November 10, 2009 posted by Nikki

Ballads of Suburbia – Stephanie Kuehnert

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.

The blurb featured above doesn’t even come close to doing Ballads of Suburbia justice. This is not your regular dose of girl-meets-bad boy-but-finds-her-way-back-to-the-right-side-of-the-tracks kind of YA fiction. There is nothing censored, dusted over, or left out of this novel. I’m not even really sure you could classify this one as YA. Having said that, I think its something all angsty teens should read, and not because it has a ‘drugs are bad’ message, although it does, in a round about kind of way. Mostly, because it’s so real and I reckon there is a whole bunch of teens wandering around suburbs just like Oak Park, feeling just like Kara does, thinking there’s no escape. Ballads is a tale about choices and how those choices can affect us for the rest of our days.

Kara’s decent into darkness essentially starts when her parents split up. They moved to the suburbs so they could live out their happy all-American fantasy of being a perfect family, only it didn’t quite work out that way. Not even close.

Kara is hurting and she’s looking for someone, something to make it all stop. Her quest takes her to fairly innocent places at first. Alcohol, cigarettes, a bit of pot. And it works, for a while, but soon enough, the pain starts to push through the mask and she knows she’s going to need something new.

Enter Adrian. Who needs drugs when you’ve got Adrian? He’s sexy, badass, and he likes Kara. No one has ever liked her before, not in that way. Who wouldn’t be pulled in by his trance? Before long, though, it becomes obvious that Adrian is bad news. He’s into hard drugs and he’s unapologetic about it. Soon the high of being around him isn’t enough either, and Kara jumps on the junkie wagon.

What I loved about Ballads is that the narrative does not, in any way, lay blame on Adrian for Kara’s drug use. Although she goes through some seriously messed stuff, Kara makes a choice, a whole bunch of them actually, and the narrative recognises that the reason Kara becomes addicted to heroine is because she allowed herself to. She didn’t need Adrian’s influence – hell some could argue that he didn’t ever actually influence her to use, but he certainly never tried to stop her – her pain and despair was so great that if she hadn’t gotten it from Adrian, I’m certain she would have found it elsewhere.

Kara’s problems essentially started at home, though I don’t entirely believe its fair to blame her problems on her parents, either. For me, it seemed that Kara is the kind of girl that was always going to at least dabble in illicit substances. Would she have taken it to such extremes if her family life had been more stable? Who knows. It’s impossible to say, but there are plenty of kids from well adjusted families that end up as heroine junkies. For some, I think it comes from within. Ballads acknowledges this and lays it all out on the table, judgment free. I bet that every single person will take something different from this novel, and that’s why I think everyone should read it.

This one comes with one hell of a warning folks. If you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy, don’t read this book. If you’re looking for a teen romance that takes a walk on the wild side, don’t read this book. If you’re looking for something that ends up all good and well in the end, then don’t read this book. If what you’re looking for is a real life read that will break your heart, fill your eyes with tears, and force you to face the hard questions head on, then this is absolutely, most definitely the book for you. If you’re looking for a book with complex and deep characters, then this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you thinking long after you finish the last word, then Ballads of Suburbia is a must-read for you.

Kara’s tale is a raw, hard-hitting lesson on just how much guts it takes to fight your way from the dark side into the light. Stephanie Kuehnert’s effortless prose and outstanding imagery will leave you standing front and center, right in the middle of all Kara’s chaos.

Be prepared to have your beating heart ripped right out of your chest.

Rating:: ★★★★★

P.S – If you’ve never known someone that’s affected by drugs the way Kara and some of her friends in this book are, I hope that you can look upon her story in a non-judging way. And if you, or someone you love has been kissed by drugs, then I hope you can take something of Kara with you into your days. Her story is more than just a fictional tale.