My new mission in life is to make everyone I know read this book. I like a lot of books, but I am rarely blown away like I was with Sorta Like a Rock Star. No plot summary will do justice to this incredible book and so I’m not going to bother. I insist you go buy it now! I got my copy from the Toronto Public Library but have since picked up my own copy and will be foisting it on others to read, probably for the rest of my life.
Sorta Like a Rock Star has earned an official spot on not only my Personal Favourites list, but my YA Books for Adults Who Don’t Read YA. Author Matthew Quick is sorta like a rock star in his ability to create and sustain a memorable, unique, and credible teenage voice in the irrepressible Amber Appleton. The voice never once falters, and his characterization is so spot on that he is able to create unbelievably wacky characters that will burrow their way into your heart.
Here are some things to expect: a choir of Korean women who are learning to speak English through soul music from the 60s; a weekly public smack down in an old age home in which Amber tries to make cranky and downright evil Joan of Old smile and Joan of Old tries to make Amber cry; a Vietnam vet who spends his entire day writing haikus, making green tea, and avoiding human interaction; the most kick-ass single mom you will ever meet. I wanted more of all of them. I miss them now.
For those who want to write (or perhaps teach), this book is an excellent study of voice and character. The plot is very straight-forward and in actual fact there isn’t a lot that happens. Even so, Amber’s world is entirely shaken and Quick is able to portray her crisis in hope and depression strictly through her voice and interactions with characters without a single word feeling off-key or sour.
This is ultimately a book about hope, human connection and kindness, and the buoyancy of the human spirit, but it is also about the random acts of awful that happen and those “what is wrong with the world” moments that make you shake your head and consider NOT bringing children into the world. I so admire the way Quick handles these moments, which never become preachy or saccharine.
Many thanks to my friend Liza Morrison for recommending this perception-altering book to me. Liza is sorta like a rock star in many ways, and recommends awesome books.
Sorta Like a Rock Star is available now in paperback from Little, Brown.