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Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Ballads of SuburbiaKara’s favorite songs are ballads, the ones that tell about someone’s life and numerous screw ups, the songs people can relate to and learn from. Because Kara’s first three years of high school were full of screw ups, and not all of them her own. Insecurity that lead to cutting, casual highs turning into drug addiction, secrets, lies, and suicides all plagued her life in a deluge she thought she was dealing with until her near heroin overdose finally woke her up. Memories documented in her and her friends’ “Stories of Suburbia” notebook will never fade, but now, it’s Kara’s turn to pay her due and write her own ballad.

When I first read a synopsis for Ballads of Suburbia, I was excited to see more from Kuehnert after I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, which I loved, but also wary because I was afraid Kuehnert was being too ambitious. Thankfully, though, I was wrong on the second account; my initial fear that Ballads of Suburbia’s large cast would be overwhelming to the story proved false. I really must say that Kuehnert does a fantastic storytelling job in this novel, from setting the story up, to the realistic characters, to the overarching theme, that people are more than just a snapshot of their lives. Kuehnert paints a very gritty and depressing picture of a “suburb” of Chicage, a grim place only an invisible line marks as no longer the city filled with dysfunction and all the wrong ways to escape. This setting makes the characters easier to understand, because each comes with a history of at least one hardship or difficulty continuing to affect their lives. I found that for me, Ballads of Suburbia was less about the plot than it was how Kara responds to it. I mean, the turning point of the story is revealed in the first few pages of the novel. So even though most of this novel was extremely sad and depressing, the ending was slightly more uplifting and inspirational.

Ballads of Suburbia is another great novel for fans of Kuehnert’s debut, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, Purge by Sarah Darer Littman, Perfect by Natasha Friend, and Identical by Ellen Hopkins. I’m thrilled Kuehnert was able to pull off such an incredible story in Ballads of Suburbia despite its depressing content and continue to look forward to her next work.

Rating: 4.5

Review copy from author Stephanie Kuehnert

2 munch(es) :

B.A.M. Book Reviews said...

Good review! I'm going to have to buy this book now.

-Briana

Thao said...

I'm looking forward to her next books too. I read that she's working on one about bartenders and the likes, that'll be cool.

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