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Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....

Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.


Ballads of Suburbia is a novel not for the faint of heart. It’s upsetting, haunting but also incredibly beautiful. Before I started this novel, I admit I was a little leery of it. I was afraid I’d begin reading and feel judgmental toward the characters and turned off by the drug use. While this was not an easy novel to dive into and at times really choked me up, I never felt like I didn’t want to continue reading. The end, while sad, was also uplifting and inspirational. Any writer who can take a black and white issue and open you up to another way of thinking is someone to really look out for.

The different “ballads” were the best aspect for me. I loved how they linked seamlessly together to tell a story not only about a group of teenagers but also for a generation. Kara was at the center of this novel and as her world started crashing down around her, I was more and more drawn into her life and her struggle. The people around her were so well drawn that I literally could see them walking right out of the pages of the book and down the halls of my old high school. They were of the same generation as me, and the music they listened to really transported me back in time. I may not identify with their experiences, but I can still recognize their journey and empathize with their situations.

Stephanie Kuehnert has an amazing voice and talent. I'll definitely be looking forward to her next novel. My hope is that teens who may be going through similar circumstances can find hope and inspiration from Kuehnert's novel. I also want to mention that at the end there are contacts for various outreach groups, something that was so fitting to be included.

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: MTV (July 21, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439102821
ISBN-13: 978-1439102824
Buy at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, etc

Stephanie Kuehnert got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist ‘zines. She received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and lives in Forest Park, Illinois. Her first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, was released by MTV Books in July of 2008. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, also published by MTV Books, is her latest release.

Visit Stephanie at her Official Website

Visit Stephanie at her Blog


Ceri said...

I like the sound of this book - it sounds interesting. I might put it on my wishlist :)

Sab H. said...

Great review!! I loved this book!!

Sarbear said...

I've been wanting to read this one -- after you review, I want to read it even more!

Jessica Kennedy said...

I've heard great thing about this book. Great review. I will be adding to my list. :)

Jill of The O.W.L Blog said...

This sounds good. Not sure if it's one I can recommend to my 7th graders, but one I want to read!

Jenn said...

Thank you for reviewing this. I've seen a lot of people saying that this was a book that changed their perspective on things. It sounds good, and I'll definitely be checking it out! (: