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- Why I read it: Music, on (not) fitting in, Manic Pixie Dream Girls
- Disclosure: Won a copy from the author in a contest. Thank you!
Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn't have friends. She has, as she's often reminded, issues. Drea's mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on "a touch of Asperger's."The Long...
Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea's preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.
It's obvious that Drea can't hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she's found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?
I know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an archetype I am supposed to despise. And, truly, I do see the problem with portraying anyone (of any gender, girl or boy) as a Manic Pixie Anything instead of as a three-dimensional person. But good lord (and may the feminist powers that be strike me down where for typing this) I love me some Manic Pixie Dream Girls (and Boys). Everything about this book reads like a Manic Pixie Dream, all musty basement bands and sleepovers and street racing and mysterious pasts. And that should sell you right there, right?
Well...maybe wrong, because it did get a little too heavy-handed, and the ending was make-my-teeth-hurt-saccharine-painful. Does that go with the debut territory? Absolutely. Does it spoil what is otherwise a terrific read? Definitely not.
Perhaps what captured me most about it was the author's bravery in taking a protagonist "with a touch of Asperger's" - who should, by publishing industry rights, belong in straight issue book territory - and making her, in the immortal words of Weetzie Bat, slinkster cool. I occasionally wanted to sit down for a nice chat with Drea and explain the facts of friendship and boys to her. But mostly, I just wanted to be her. Authors who want to write diverse characters in YA could do much, much worse than to take a leaf out of Kelly's book.
Of course, what made Drea so awesome was undoubtedly her love of music. Kelly's rendering of a bunch of kids hanging out in a basement making music is pitch-perfect (pun fully intended), and Drea and Justin's constant musical bickering was one of my favorite parts of the book. Music geek that I am, I'm now doubly excited for Kelly's next release, Amplified (to Goodreads), which looks like it follows a similar vein.
Finally, Drea's best friend Naomi. Where do I even begin? She's the one who made me think Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the first place (though the whole book had an oh-so-Zooey-Deschanel vibe from the start), and while she's far from perfectly drawn, she's also heartbreaking. I've known far too many Naomis in my life to deny that I cried at the end, despite the earnestness of it all. If watching Drea grow is the bones of the book, Naomi is its heart.
This book caught me completely and happily off guard, and while it wasn't perfect, I can't wait to see where Tara Kelly takes us next. Yay for contemporary YA!
...and the Short:
Harmonic Feedback is offbeat, romantic, funny and heartbreaking in equal measures; in short, a delight. It might come off a little too earnest for some, but awesome music references and some fantastic Pacific
Northwest street cred make it hard to beat for a sweet and sad rainy day read. Read it!*
*and yes, I know I promised you an explanation of my new ratings system last week. It's coming this Monday, I promise!