Thursday, May 22, 2008

Debbie Harry Sings in French

Debbie Harry Sings in French, by author Meagan Brothers offers readers a fresh coming-of-age novel. After his father's death, Johnny takes care of his mother and ultimately becomes the adult performing necessary mundane tasks of grocery shopping, paying bills, and getting a job when the money is gone. Self described as "just sort of there," he has always been a bit different; not a Goth, Johnny enjoys the flamboyance of their style; not interested in drugs, he takes an adults solace in alcohol and music. This lifestyle choice takes a nightmare toll, a near fatal accident with drugs and alcohol that provides his mother with a wake-up call.

Sent to live with his Uncle Sam and cousin Bug, Johnny is enrolled in a private school hoping just to survive the year and graduate. Johnny bonds with Maria, a fellow prep-school outsider with the same taste in music. In love with Maria, Johnny struggles with understanding his own sexuality and inherent enjoyment of dressing in drag. The teens forge a complicated relationship based on friendship, music, love, and acceptance. Uncle Sam provides a stable father figure and introduces Johnny to a different side of his father, letting him know they are more alike than he ever imagined.

I admit the title of this book is what intrigued me to take it from the cart. I remember Deborah Harry and Blondie in the infancy of MTV (Call Me, Heart of Glass, and Rapture) and wondered how it would work in a contemporary novel without becoming campy. It works nicely; this novel is a wonderful, truthful, and quirky look at how teenagers view themselves, authority, parents, and their sexuality.

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