Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ballads of Suburbia, A Book Review

Ballads of Suburbia is Stephanie Kuehnert’s second novel, her first being I Want To Be Your Joey Ramone. They came out nearly one after the other, but where her first novel fell short in some places her second showed growth and depth in secondary character development and setting.
The novel is set in Oak Park, IL during the mid 90s, a time of punk and the characters worship that image: dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, drugs, and a ‘I don’t care’ attitude. The main character is Kara, and her story of growing up, falling in love, doing drugs, feeling pain, and dealing with life is separated throughout the novel by confessions of her friends, they’re “ballads,” the stories they were never able to say out loud and instead wrote in a worn spiral bound notebook that they all shared. With so many intertwining stories it’s impossible for the reader to not find a character to relate to. The stories deal with everything from loss of a parent, to abuse, teen pregnancy, drug usage, abandonment, and as the novel continues the stories become more and more intense. Like growing up, life becomes more complicated as we get older.
Though admitting things to yourself is healthy, the longer you keep things from those that care about you the farther you may fall. Kara’s best friend, Maya, repeats her grandmother’s wisdom, “‘Secrets lead to sickness’. She said they call it coming clean because secrets and lies make you dirty inside.” All the characters keep secrets; some never face their demons, but the ones that do come out as better people.

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