Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

The indomitably hopeful one!

The girl of unyielding optimism!

The teen of merriment!

The fan favorite!

Your undisputed champion! 

‘Amber-Rock Star of Hope-Apple-TOOOOOOOOOON!'”

“Maybe I am a freak-but I’m one hopeful misfit, and you could be worse things in this world.  True? True.”

Amber Appleton lives on the school bus that her mom drives during the day.  They’ve been there ever since her mom’s latest boyfriend kicked them out of the house.  It gets pretty cold at night, and Amber gets scared when her mom heads out to bars and leaves her alone, but it’s not Amber’s style to get bummed out about her sad life.  She’s not like that.  Instead, she’s too busy singing and doing English lessons with the Korean Divas for Christ, standing up to the school board, kicking quarterback Lex in the shins just to “maintain the balance of power within the student body so that evil doesn’t get out of control”, duking it out in a weekly word-battle for hope with the Nietzsche-quoting Debbie Downer, Joan of Old, at the nursing home, and writing haikus about dogs for a Vietnam War veteran who slammed the door in her face once. She sasses the school principal and soothes herself to sleep with the handful of good memories of happy times with her mother.   That’s the kind of girl she is: sorta like a rock star.

Amber has a seemingly bottomless well of sincere enthusiasm and concern for those around her, spending her life cheering others on.  She forms friendships with the weakest and most vulnerable people in her community:  veterans, old men and women in a nursing home, Korean immigrants, students with special needs.  But it’s not out of a sense of duty, or with any thought for herself.  It’s because, as Amber puts it, “I dig lighting up people’s faces.”  However, when tragedy strikes, the aptly-named Princess of Hope needs the support of everyone in her community-and even that may not be enough to keep her going.

This is my new favorite book and the single best thing I’ve read to date.  That’s a really big statement, but I mean it!  It’s four in the morning now, and I’ve been agonizing over what quote to start out with, because I really hope you all will love this book as much as I do, and I needed to find the perfect starter!  You see, Amber is amazing.  She’s quirky, buoyant, and irrepressible-and she manages to be all of this without the slightest trace of Pollyanna saccharinity.  Because, honestly, all of that goodness could be pretty irritating to read about, but that’s not Amber Appleton at all.  She’s offbeat-smiling at people when she’s biking, doting over her dog (Thrice B), making kick-ass omelets, and her own silver prom dress- all the while freaking out about her alcoholic mother and living in a school bus.

This book champions sincerity and belief in a greater good, which is a pretty incredible take, considering the customary tone of books covering the heavy stuff, like alcoholism, violent crime, and homelessness. While the plot is original, and the characters are all interesting and multi-dimensional, it’s really Amber’s voice that brings the story to life.  I know you’re gonna love her!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://matthewquickwriter.com

Quick, Matthew. Sorta Like a Rock Star. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2010. 355 pp.  Ages 14 and up.

All right, if you loved this one, you might want to try Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  It has the same feeling to it!

Oh, I hope you love this book!

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Nothing by Janne Teller

” Pierre Anthon left school the day he realized that nothing was worth doing, because nothing meant nothing anyway.

The rest of us stayed on.

And although the teachers had a job on their hands tidying up after Pierre Anthon in the classroom as well as in our heads, part of Pierre Anthon remained stuck inside of us.  Maybe that was why it all turned out the way it did.”

Pierre Anthon has it figured out: we go to school to get a job, get a job to get time off, and all the while, we are trying to convince ourselves and others that it is all worth it.  But Pierre’s not buying it, which is why he walks out of school.  He ensconces himself in a plum tree, and occupies his time hurling plums and incisively nihilistic statements at his school mates.  He tells them it’s all meaningless, that we all become nothing, so we might as well stop our frantic attempts to prove otherwise.

In some tiny corner of their minds, they begin to be afraid that he’s right, and so, they set out to prove that he isn’t.

That’s when the pile begins:  the children gather and, one by one, demand the sacrifice.  Every child must give up what is most meaningful and important to them, piling them up in the abandon building they choose as a clubhouse.  It starts fairly innocuously, with a pair of green sandals and other treasures, but quickly escalates, creating a Lord of the Flies-esque spiral of violence and desperation.

While in high school, I hated Lord of the Flies, but deep inside, appreciated the meaning.  Even though it turned my stomach, I felt it was one of those books that everyone should read just once-not so much as a cautionary tale, but just to wake up those seeds of ideas, to unsettle the mind.  That’s what I like the most about this books: it’s not about the violence, it’s about the reaction of the students to Pierre’s statements.  His assertions make them uncomfortable because they are afraid they’re true.

Please read this book.  It will only take a few hours, and I don’t think you will regret it. It won several prestigious awards: The Best Children’s Book Prize and Le Prix Libbylit.

Author’s website: http://www.janneteller.dk/?English

 

 

Teller, Janne. Trans. Martin Aitken.  Nothing. Atheneum Books: New York, 2010. 227 pp.  Grades 6-Everyone else.

If you liked this one, I think you’ll also like The Alchemist, and of course, The Lord of the Flies.