Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers. (Grades 9-12.)
Johnny has had a difficult life. His dad died when he was 12 and his mom collapsed inside herself, leaving Johnny to take care of the house and the bills and everything. To dull the stress, Johnny turned to alcohol and eventually found himself in rehab at the age of 16. When he gets out of rehab, his mom decides she can't deal with him and she sends him to South Carolina to live with his uncle. Johnny finds himself living with a new family, attending a private school where the jocks beat him up every day, and coping with his addiction by listening obsessively to Blondie. He first heard them in rehab and he immediately fell in love with Debbie Harry. But it's not so much that he wants to be with her... more like he wants to be her. She just seems so strong and sure of herself, like the person Johnny wants to be.
This is a great coming-of-age story. With music as an essential part of the plot and the main character's rather naive view of the world, it really reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was the book we all passed around obsessively at my high school). I love that Johnny finds a strong father figure in his uncle and that his uncle is so open-minded. Throughout the book, Johnny questions whether he might be gay. He doesn't think he is, but the thought of putting on a little white dress and lip syncing to Heart of Glass is actually quite appealing... I love that his questioning is a natural thing. Johnny's figuring out who he is and if being gay is part of that package, he's okay with it.
Read more reviews at Oops...Wrong Cookie, Reading Rants, and Worth the Trip.
Much thanks to the publisher Henry Holt for sending this book along with my copy of The Adoration of Jenna Fox! It was a very pleasant surprise!