Title: Ballads of Suburbia
Author: Stephanie Kuehnert
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Bookstore
Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara McNaughton likes best. Not the cliched ones where a diva hits her highest 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 telling the story of their life in three minutes, the chorus 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 and often tragic events from suburbs all over and personal vignettes that Kara dubbed “ballads” written by her friends in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Those “ballads” were heartbreakingly honest tales of the moments when life changes and a kid is forced to grow up too soon. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she was leaving town after a series of disastrous events at the end of her junior year. Four years later, Kara returns to face the music, and tells the tale of her first three years of high school with her friends’ “ballads” interspersed throughout.
This by no means was an easy story to read. Kara’s life is hard. She parties all night long. She does multiple drugs and drinks herself into a stupor. If your looking for a quick feel good read, skip Ballads of Suburbia. If you are looking for a real account of a troubled teenager, this is for you.
I bought this book because it was on everyone’s ‘Best of 2009’ lists. So I knew that it was going to be good but at first I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was not a book that I just had to sit down and read but I would find myself thinking about these characters while doing mundane tasks around the house. They slowly crept into my head until the second day of reading when they firmly wedged their selves in my brain and I could not stop reading.
I completely related to these characters. If I would have grown up in a different place, I think this totally could have been me. Which is a scary thought. Thank the universe that I grew up in the middle of no where! I did some bad things as a teen but nothing compared to Kara and her friends. I was too well-adjusted. My family was too involved in my life to let things like this happen. But I was angsty and depressed enough as a teen to connect with Kara.
Ballads of Suburbia is a dark story. It’s heartbreaking. I shed a few tears. It’s powerful. This book could be anyone’s anti-drug. It’s beautiful. On top of all the disturbing actions, it’s really just about friendship and love. Everyone needs to feel like they belong. Like their family loves and understands them. That’s what Ballads of Suburbia is really about.
Another thing to add to the list of things I loved about this book is, the music references. I was pretty young in the early to mid 90’s but I had a big sister. So we watched MTV. We were huge fans of Nirvana and just about any other 90’s rock band. I still listen to that music today. It totally shaped my taste in music. So I loved that their was mentions of all these bands that I love.
Overall, Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert is not for the weak at heart. It’s a tough story. If you ever felt like you didn’t belong as a teen, then you should read this. It’s not a book that I will put on the self and forget about. It will definitely be in my head for a long time. It’s been over a week since I finished the book and every time I pass by my bookshelf and see it I want to pick it up and start reading again. I see what all the fuss was about. 5 Stars