1/17/13

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

Author: Teddy Wayne 
Pages: 256 
Publisher: Free Press 
Format: Paperback (ARC)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.

Poignant, brilliant, and viciously funny, told through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable child narrators, this literary masterpiece explores with devastating insight and empathy the underbelly of success in 21st-century America. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a tour de force by a standout voice of his generation.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Being a kid on the verge of puberty is hard enough, but for Jonny Valentine it's only the tip of the iceberg. 

Jonny is a pop star at the ripe old age of eleven. Having grown up in the spotlight, Jonny never got to experience things normal kids do. With every second of his life planned out, Jonny doesn't even have time for fun, let alone friends or school.

Sheltered by his psychotic 'momager' Jane, Jonny doesn't even know what became of his absentee father... until the day he logs onto his mom's computer and finds a message from his dad on every fan site. But is it really him? As Jonny begins a mission to reconnect with his dad, he'll discover just how far he'll have to go to maintain his fame and his career.

My Thoughts: This book was heartbreaking. Jonny is probably one of my favourite narrators of all time - his mix of innocence, cynicism, and humour will soften event he hardest of hearts. Growing up in showbiz has taken everything from Jonny, but he still manages to put on a show. Jane was reminiscent of those crazy pageant moms you see on T.V. - so obsessed with being the best that she ignores what is happening to her child and forgets to treat him like a real person.

Wayne's commentary on the way we treat our celebrities - especially child stars - resonates with the reader. 

"We always want to have as much control as possible over my image, but the Lisa Pinto exposure made sense from a packaging-strategy perspective, since even if it was driving off some of the fat girls, it would bring in more of the pretty girls, and if they liked me then the fat girls would like me more to try to be like the pretty girls, plus the pretty girls would bring their boyfriends to my concerts, which effectively doubled gate receipts and they also had to buy them crap merch to make them happy, but the fat girls didn’t have boyfriends. They had to buy the crap merch for themselves to feel happier. But Jane says we’re in the business of making fat girls feel like they’re pretty for a few hours and that most pretty girls are afraid other people think they’re fat anyway, so maybe it’s all the same." 

Jonny has been made into the perfect product by his team, and you can see the way it morphs his thoughts. 

The theme of slavery works perfectly with the novel, as Jonny is what we come to see as a slave to the masses and his celebrity itself.  And as he fumbles through his first teenage experiences, we see just how much of a tole growing up as a pop star has had on Jonny. 

Final Thoughts: Wayne has written an honest and unflinching account of child stardom. I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for a great read.  

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