Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Sorta Like a Rockstar by Mathew Quick

Title: Sorta Like a Rockstar

Author: Matthew Quick

Pages: 355

Received from: library (iknoright? I couldn't resist).


Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). But Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. Instead, she focuses on bettering the lives of her alcoholic mother and her quirky circle of friends: a glass-ceiling-breaking single mother raising a son diagnosed with autism; Father Chee and The Korean Divas for Christ (soul-singing ESL students); a nihilist octogenarian; a video-game-playing gang of outcasts; and a haiku-writing war vet. But then a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism—and her way of life. Can Amber continue to be the princess of hope?

With his zany cast of characters and a heartwarming, inspiring story, debut YA author Matthew Quick builds a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope. This world is Amber’s stage, and Amber is, well…she’s sorta like a rock star.

Remember Laura Ingalls?

Her books about her years growing up in the Big Woods with her family in, like, the 1800's? Remember how you would watch the TV show and maybe read the books, and you would always feel like such a bad kid because this chick was a parent's Godsend? And maybe your parents would bring her up, like a perfect older sister, everytime you broke a lamp or got a bad grade or something. It sucked, and Laura Ingalls made every kid in the country feel like total shit.

Amber Appleton is the new Laura Ingalls.

Is this a good thing? Pending.

In one way, she is totally unrelatable. This may be to blame on the rushed vibe throughout the thing, or it could be because of Amber's complete and total awesomeness. She visits old people and Nam vets, she takes care of her dog, Bobby Big Boy, as well as her alcoholic mother, she's friends with autistic kids, she lobbies to save her favorite school teacher and she makes breakfast for her surrogate mom, Donna, every morning and countless other acts-of-awesomeness, all the while thanking Jesus (JC, as she dubs him). Thank Buddha my mom didn't read it, or I'd be out on the fucking street. She's that adorable. The only time she actually does something teenager-y is after her mother is _____ and ______. That is such a cop out. Like, the only way to make your MC a bitch is to have something horrible happen to her, thereby making all of said bitchiness totally excusable so there isn't even any real character to character conflict? WTF?

It's a weird thing with her--like, she's obnoxiously hopeful but completly world-weary at the same time. It feels like, even though she's praising JC's divineness or whatever, it's laced with this bitterness, even before her mother's ______ and ______. This was, just a little, redeeming as far as Amber's character went. Or maybe the fact that she was homeless and shit was just another cop-out for her character. I don't know. It was...odd.

Religion takes a pretty prominent role in Sorta Like a Rockstar. One of Amber's Awesome Kid Attributes is that she has an undying faith in Jesus and God and shit and that she teaches Christian Korean women (the Korean Divas for Christ...?) English through old R&B songs, and her BFF is their priest, Father Chee. But the really chill thing about it was that it never came off as preachy or, like, a Nicholas Sparks novel. It's never like Gods real don't you question me boy. Donna and Ricky, the autistic kid (who's only characteristic is that he's autistic and he's good at math...) are athiests. Amber's always praying for something or another and its kind of in that sweet way that even those hardcore athiests would be awwing. But its also so...silly. I couldn't take anything she was saying, because everything was weighed down by slang (like at the end of every other paragraph it was like, "Word" or "True? True" which was cute at first but then it started getting like...okay...?) Amber was silly, her friends were silly and everything was just silly, I get that, but is that all anybody is? Except for Amber herself and Amber's mother (though her scenes are sparse and she's mostly seen through Amber's "Amber and her mom's top seven moments"), the entire vast array of characters are hardly seen. Talked about like they'd be hugely important but then all they do is drive her around and write haikus or other quirky things. I get that there were a lot of characters and it would have been a helluva long book if the author focused on all of them, but it all felt so empty. I need meat to my characters, and Rockstar didn't provide.

There's probably more I have to say, but I can't think of it. Sorta Like a Rockstar was silly, fun and pretty heartwarming (if your into that). The end was a tad predictable, but if your not looking for something superrrrrrrr tolling on your brain, then pick it up. If your looking for some kind of Ellen Page quirky teen drama, sure. If your looking for an actual character driven drama, where everyone exists for themselves instead of the MC, then...not for you. I don't even know, man. I'm getting cookies.

Rating: A for effort, effictivly got me tearing up a bit, but as far as execution goes? 70%


Simon said...

Unless the character's extremely and palpably Canadian, I don't think Ellen Page would do at all.

Simon said...

Unless the character's extremely and palpably Canadian, I don't think Ellen Page would do at all.

Emma said...

This book looks awesome. Great review! I need to read this ASAP.

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This has some promise -- I like books with lots of quirky characters. But I am laughing over your "Laura Ingalls" remarks. So true! I loved Little House back in the day (both the books and the T.V. series), but they were guilt inducing. And I am definitely OVER perfect characters. On the other hand, that's not an uncommon dynamic with kids of alcoholic parents -- being "perfect." Completely on the fence about whether I'd like this book.

Somebody said...

This book is my favorite of all time! The ending made me cry, and I hope that other writers have the ability to write amazing books like this. (This may be the most positive thing I have ever typed)

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