Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teen Fiction Tuesday: I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone

I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone, by Stephanie Kuehnert

Publisher: Simon Schuster
Pages: 340
Reading Level: Upper Teen
Enjoyment Level: High

Ragu and I reviewed Stephanie Kuehnert’s second book, Ballads of Suburbia, a few months ago, coinciding with my interview with her. Now, I’m finally getting around to reading and reviewing her first novel, I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone. And this review will be in conjunction with our first posted Writer's Desk episode on the podcast, so be sure to watch for that coming up.

Emily Black grew up with music, a passion encouraged by her father and the stories she heard of her mother leaving to follow the music. She disliked the small town she was raised in, and did what she could to leave, leading her to start a band. As successful as the band got, Emily could never quite dispel the hope that her songs would bring her mother back to her.

Set in the early nineties, the story falls against a backdrop of punk and grunge – music that I grew up on. Music provides a great cover for the foundation the story is really built on, becoming something of a red herring to the real plot of the novel, which is a great tool for the author. Not only that, but it’s easy to see that the author loves music and has imbued it into this character, making Emily seem more real.

Probably at the forefront of the “new adult” movement in YA, Joey Ramone covers many years of Emily’s life, all the way into her early twenties. Some of the material is definitely geared towards older teens, as Stephanie Kuehnert doesn’t hesitate to tell the whole truth of things. There’s nothing really graphic in terms of sex or violence, but the raw emotions are heavy enough that a certain maturity is needed when reading.

I will say (and I have told her) that Ballads of Suburbia is my favorite of the two. I found that the ending of Joey Ramone wasn’t quite what I like in terms of closure, although that may lend more reality to the ending of the book. I also felt like I was more connected to the characters in Ballads compared to Emily in Joey Ramone. But I still enjoyed going on Emily’s journey and seeing her grow into herself.

If you’re wondering what the “new adult” movement entails, if you just want something gritty and musical, or if you just want a good coming-of-age novel, I suggest finding this one.

Until next time, go read something good!

~ Vilate


  1. Thanks for this review. Both BALLADS and JOEY RAMONE are on my TBR list -- hopefully I'll get to them soon! (So many books, so little time....)