I’ll be honest. I haven’t been blogging ’cause I wanted to talk about Stephanie Kuehnert’s Ballads of Suburbia, yet I didn’t know how to say anything. I took some time off so I could come up with something coherent that would really explain how I felt about this book.
And I couldn’t. Come up with anything, that is.
So truth be told, I can’t review this book. A review wouldn’t be worth it. Because just so you know, I read Ballads of Suburbia at a difficult time of my life. A time when things were changing and good or bad, they could only swing to extremes. A time when the only way I was trying to deal with things was by binge-reading. And Ballads appeared with a back cover that read like: 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.
I can’t dissect this book in a mere review. It’s been a while since I read it, but it still overwhelms me. It’s so atmospheric and heartbreakingly painful and packed with such stellar characters, reading Ballads was like experiencing everything that Kara and her friends went through. I could talk about so many things — how the Chicago suburbs of the 90s came alive on the page, how unbelievably hard it was to read about these teens watching everything crumbling around them, how singularly dependent they were on substance yet in spite of the self-abuse involved, they stuck together like a group of lost young people trying to salvage whatever they can of their young lives and how they each recorded haunting personal “ballads” that showed so much raw vulnerability that I’m left awed at the brilliance of this book.
There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.
Yes, this book is hard because the author isn’t afraid to hold back anything. She bluntly talks about cutting, overdoses and death. It’s dark and probably difficult for some but the little hopes and dreams of this gaggle of disillusioned teens shine through occasionally and make this powerhouse of a book, a luminous and coming-of-age tale.
Nothing I say can sum up how much this book affected me but Stephenie Kuehnert is officially my hero now and I can only thank her for writing it.
Here’s the book trailer. And though I think the actors look a bit too old to play the characters, take a look:
And while you’re here, the lovely Jen Daiker from Unedited is hosting a giveaway where you have the option of choosing between books, bookmarks, magnets and bath salts, lotions, candles. How awesome is that? Obviously, I want to win, but I’m being generous enough to direct you there as well, so drop by and show her some love.
And I hope you guys had a fantastic Christmas 🙂