Book Review: The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

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Image via GoodReads

 

This is a bit of a departure for the blog, but since The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is all about the music industry and how it affects us, I figured it would be a fitting book to review. I finished it last night and I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

The story follows Jonny Valentine, an eleven-year-old pop star (and thinly-veiled Justin Bieber homage) as he completes a North American tour. Teddy Wayne, the book’s author, perfectly captures the voice of a tweenage boy who’s been forced to grow up way too fast. There were moments when Jonny makes observations about his surroundings – like commenting about someone’s “chub” or the ticket sales of his tour – that at first seemed too mature and unrealistic. Then I realized that he thinks that way by virtue of his surroundings. He was plucked from obscurity after being discovered on YouTube and was then thrown into the high-stakes, fast-paced world of pop stardom where, yes, “chub” seems to be the only thing that matters.

A recurring theme in this book is the game The Secret Land of Zenon, which Jonny plays as an escape from his pressure-cooker world. Wayne expertly uses the game as a parallel of Jonny’s fantasy life as a musician. Wait till you read about how the game appears in the final pages of the book – it’s an incredible punch to the gut.

However, Jonny isn’t only struggling with lackluster tour numbers and beating The Secret Land of Zenon. He also has an absentee father who has attempted to contact him through fansites and email. Jonny’s father appears and reappears at key moments throughout the book as a representation of what Jonny is missing. Jonny knows that his manager and mother Jane has issues, and longs for something more. He often wonders if having a father in his life could be the solution to many of his problems.

Jonny’s story is heart-wrenching. His narrative voice is so simple: for example, he talks about the designers that send him clothes in a point-blank way while also considering the emptiness that lies underneath. Wayne’s expert handling of these issues forces us to consider the ways that we’re implicit in the pop culture machine. A must read for anyone interested in music or the music industry!

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