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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

Debbie Harry Sings in French There seems to be a surge in young adult fiction aimed at assuring teens that it's ok to question their sexuality, which is what  Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers wants to be. I think the author pulls a few punches though, and it ends up being both scandalous and gentle.

Johnny has had a tough life. His dad died just after his 13th birthday and his mom just checks out for a few years, leaving Johnny to fend for himself. Johnny starts drinking to get through the day (check!) eventually OD'ing (check!) and being sent off (check!)  By chance he hears a clip of Debbie Harry singing in French and falls deeply in love with the rock star. He meets a girl who encourages him, and then realizes that maybe he wants to BE Debbie Harry.  But what does that mean? Does that mean he's gay (check!)? What about his new girlfriend?

This is the type of young adult novel that is terrific while you're reading it, but then afterwards you feel a bit like the author was trying to cram as many issues in as possible. In order not to totally spoil it for you, I won't elaborate on the plot, but there is a veritable check list of issues in one short little book.  I am not completely convinced that Brothers manages to pull it off well, it almost seems like too little- if you're gonna go there, GO there, ya know? I kinda felt like everyone in the book was a stereotype- the girlfriend with the troubled past, the perfectly understanding uncle, the father he never knew, the adorable and smart niece, the football scholarship bullies, etc. Despite all these issues and caricatures, the book manages to touch on everything without really focusing on them with any intensity.

That said, Johnny is a likable guy, you understand his confusion over his feelings for Debbie Harry and Maria. I am sure there is a subset of the teen population who will find that this book speaks to them, and I'm happy that they will have it. It does fill a little spot of  opening up a conversation about different forms of sexuality- homosexuality vs transvestite vs transsexual, etc. I just think maybe it didn't quite go far enough.

Debbie Harry Sings in French
by Meagan Brothers
Henry Holt and Co
234 pages

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  1. I read an adult book recently that did the same thing - it tried to cram too many issues in and then didn't go a good job exploring most of them.

  2. Great review! I have a problem with books that try to cram in too much but then sometimes life crams in too much so I'm thinking that sometimes I need to ease up a bit on authors.

  3. Hmm. I can't say that I've ever heard of this book but I'm not sure it's the book for me after your review.


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