Review * Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
Published by MTV Books on http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5930447-ballads-of-suburbia
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara McNaughton likes best. Not the clichéd ones where a diva hits her dramatic high note or a rock band tones it down a couple of notches for the ladies, but the true ballads: the punk rocker or the country crooner reminding their listeners of the numerous ways to screw things up. In high school, Kara helped maintain the "Stories of Suburbia" notebook, which contained newspaper articles about bizarre, tragic events from suburbs all over America, and personal vignettes that Kara dubbed "ballads" written by her friends in Oak Park, just outside of Chicago. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she left town suddenly at the end of her junior year. Now, four years later, Kara returns to her hometown to face the music, needing to revisit the disastrous events that led to her leaving, in order to move on with her life.
What I Thought…
I can’t remember where I first saw this book. I might have been just browsing goodreads or maybe I saw it on a blog. I wish I could remember. After reading the summary I just knew I wanted to read this book. I went to request it at my library (I’m trying to only buy books that I seriously, desperately want to own) and was so disappointed to discover that they didn’t have it. So I went about reading other books. But I kept coming back to this one, so I bought it (It’s the library’s fault I had to buy it, so it’s a justified buy). And I’m really glad I did too.
This book was utterly amazing. It’s not a happy ending story, not a love story and not a good-guy-gets-the-bad-guy story. It’s heartbreaking. It’s tragic. But it’s so good. It amazes me that only 353 people have rated it on goodreads. More people should read this story.
The main issue in Ballads of Suburbia is addiction and what it does to people, and how these people ended up there. Besides Kara’s story there are six other ballads (each one chapter, mixed throughout the book. All the ballads were sad in their own way but I thought Adrian’s was the saddest.
It’s hard to really like any of the characters. They are all addicted to various drugs and have some serious issues. I couldn’t relate to any of the characters (as I have never shared their problems), but I did feel for some of them. Kara, Liam and Cass were the three I felt most sorry for. Until I read their ballad it was hard to feel any sympathy for Adrian or Christian. Even after knowing their ballads I still found Christian and Adrian unlikeable.
Kara and Liam’s relationship was hard on me. I have a younger brother and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered how much he really looked up to me and tried to be like me. It still amazes me because we didn’t get along when we were younger. Liam’s need and reliance on his sister led to his own path of destruction. Even though they took different paths to self destruction they still mirrored each other.
In addition to be addicted to various drugs Kara was also a cutter. One of my friends used to be a cutter (now 6 years cut free) and it was a different experience to read about it from the cutter’s perspective. I know all about the tricks to hide it because I’ve seen it but J and I never talked about why and what she felt when she did it. I’m so grateful she stopped, but reading this makes me wish I would have done more when I first saw the marks. But, like with all addictions, you can’t make people stop, they have to want to stop.
The one thing that did bother me about the book was the parents. The parents were so oblivious (or just didn’t care) what their children were doing, until it was too late of course. A little parental interest of any kind to these kids would have gone a long way.
One thing I really liked about the book was the culture references. A lot of books try not to “date” themselves, so it was nice to read a book that did. I liked it in this book because I am about the same age as Kara so I understood all the references and shared some similar feelings with her over them.
I don’t feel like I’m doing the book justice. It’s very hard to describe exactly how I feel about Ballads of Suburbia, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good book and doesn’t mind a little (or a lot) heartbreak.