Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: Sorta Like A Rock Star

Matthew Quick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The impossibly upbeat Amber Appleton has, by any standards, a hard life. Her and her mother are currently homeless and living on the school bus her mother drives after being kicked out of her most recent ex-boyfriend's apartment. Her alcoholic, anorexic, entirely dysfunctional mom is the only family Amber has, yet despite this Amber remains firm in her belief that things will work out for the best. She has strong faith in God, in her mother, and in the general goodwill of people. She spends her days doing good deeds for others despite her own situation.

I wanted to like this book. I really really did. It was recommended to me by quite a few fellow bloggers and reading about a relentlessly positive main character sounded awesome. Unfortunately, Amber Appleton's character and story never quite clicked for me. Though I loved (loved) her positivity and faith, her actual personality was a bit off-putting to me. It may be the fact that the voice of this narrator was just so out there, full of tons of slang that I found it difficult to get used to, or it might be that to be perfectly honest much of Amber's actions were inappropriate as were her reactions to other's actions. In the context of her life this made perfect sense, but I still found it hard to connect or empathize with her personally.

Aside from Amber, there was a cast of similarly unique-and-quirky characters, including a very zen Vietnam veteran and her "Freak Force Federation" friends. Sometimes quirky works. Sometimes it doesn't. For me, these characters were a bit over-the-top quirky and it was often difficult to see them as real when their personalities felt reduced to 2-D. This made the story (even more) unrealistic and difficult to buy into, which, depending on your reading tastes and what sort of book you're looking for, isn't always a bad thing. Unfortunately what I wanted and expected from this book was a realistic story of a modern-day Pollyanna type character: unrelenting optimism in the face of a crappy situation. What I got was a zany, quirk-filled adventure and a tragic story of how Amber's life goes from awful to more awful and then turns around again.

I didn't hate this book, but I didn't love it either. Many, many others laud its praises and I wish I could be among them, but sadly despite the book's occasional moments of real emotion and clarity, I found the characters too flat and the story too erratic to really keep me interested and invested in it.

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