Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert Review

Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara McNaughton likes best. Not the cliched ones where a diva hits her highest note or a rock band tones it down a couple of notches for the ladies, but the true ballads: the punk rocker or the country crooner telling the story of their life in three minutes, the chorus reminding their listeners of the numerous ways to screw things up. In high school, Kara helped maintain the "Stories of Suburbia" notebook, which contained newspaper articles about bizarre and often tragic events from suburbs all over and personal vignettes that Kara dubbed "ballads" written by her friends in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Those "ballads" were heartbreakingly honest tales of the moments when life changes and a kid is forced to grow up too soon. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she was leaving town after a series of disastrous events at the end of her junior year. Four years later, Kara returns to face the music, and tells the tale of her first three years of high school with her friends' "ballads" interspersed throughout.

My Thoughts:
So usually I get new books according to what other bloggers read and liked. Stephanie’s book Ballads of Suburbia was everywhere in the bloggerverse so I decided to take a look at it. Well this book is mainly told in Kara’s point of view. Okie before I even get started with that, let me talk about how the book is organized (which I thought was extremely bad ass). Okie so this book is organized like a song, each different era was labeled as a Verse or Chorus, which I’m guessing is to give the illustration of it being Kara’s song because a ballad is a song telling a story. Anyway, after every Verse or Chorus, the chapters start over in numbering which was just totally awesome. Anyway continuing on… it’s told from Kara’s point of view, with occasional shifts in point of view from her friends in a ballad.

Occasionally we see a song lyric from the oh so awesome Johnny Cash! Gah! He’s one of my favorite artist evar! She also had stuff from Nirvana and about Kurt Cobain. The voices she gave her characters were just abs amazing. I really felt like I could connect which each and every individual. Like at the beginning I went into the book hating Adrian but as it went on, my view kind of shifted. The ballads gave the characters a voice that I could easily identify with. We’ve all had to deal with a backstabbing friend or maybe a sibling rivalry. To be perfectly honest, there were two instances that hit very close to home. One was when Kara’s brother talked about her, and how he viewed her as a hero. As I read that part all I could think about was my own siblings and how big of an impact I might have on them and I might not even really see it or notice it. Okie the other one was about divorce, and I’m going to share a paragraph from the novel.

There are so many ballads about divorce. Achy-breaky country songs about the cheaters. Mournful pop songs about the heartbroken. Then there’s the rare punk song that tells it from the view of the kids. Feelings aren’t laid bare in those particular ballads. There’s no crying and moaning. Divorce is shrugged off like it’s no big deal, just a messy par of so many kids’ life storiespage 100.

It’s so true though. You rarely hear a good song talking about it from the view of the kids. As soon as I read that I immediately thought of Blink 182’s Stay together for the kids. My friends and just people who know me know that I listen to songs based on what they say. What kind of story is told within the few verses and lines. So as soon as I finished this novel it was as if I’ve read a good lyrical song. It told a good and meaningful story that I will continue to think about for as long as I breathe. Great writing, amazing storyline, unforgettable characters, this novel is definitely a good one. It deserves the 5 out of 5 paws.

Comment Question of the Blog:
What’s your favorite song and why? Leave your answer in the comment section below.

As always,
That Chick That Reads


  1. I've seen this one around a lot too, and everyone seems to have good things to say.

    My favorite song right now: Bring Me To Life by Evanscence.

  2. That sounds really cool and fun. Great review.
    Favorite song: The Middle by Jimmy eats World b/c the lyrics always pick me up.

  3. One of the best books this year! ;D