Reviews for Who Put This Song On?, by Morgan Parker

lancakes's review against another edition

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A perfect book?? A perfect book for me.

Morgan Parker, probably precisely because this book is so close to home/a fictionalised memoir, really fucking nails depression and dispossession. Book Morgan is recovering from a scary suicidal ideation/self harm episode during the beige California summer between 11th and 12th grade. She's having panic attacks ("Episodes"), hunkering down in her room, unable to establish or hold interest and feels like crawling out of her skin while socialising. She's a Smart Kid who doesn't really give a shit about school because it fucking sucks and it's hard to care about pointless assignments that aren't teaching you what you need to know because depression and anxiety are using up all your fucks faster than you can generate them. All in all: Relatable.

The book follows Morgan through her white-ass town, into her white-ass Christian school, observes her therapy sessions with white-ass Susan. As Writer Morgan Parker includes in an addendum at the end of the book, her positionality as a Black Woman affects her mental health/is comorbid with her anxiety and depression. The book dissects moments of micro and macro aggression in beautiful nuanced and palpable scenes that only a Black Woman could write - I certainly understand being othered and marginalised but I cannot on my own imagine exactly how it feels to be the only Black girl (aside from Stacey Dash-esque Other Black Girl) in an an AP government class insufficiently taught by a Republican during a "debate" on "whether the US is ready for a Black president" in Obama's election year. I felt choked with anger and exhausted just reading the scene. It reminds me how fortunate I and my fellow white people are that Black People continue, out of the goodness of their hearts and, I'm sure, risk of violent suppression, to not burn this whole motherfucker down. This book tackles so much, without being "preachy" (quotations because sometimes white people feel like if a particular "Black Issue" is raised in a book it's somehow "preachy" or "shoehorned in" instead of just like, part of Black People's reality), including: overpolicing and police harassment, police brutality, culturally incompetent mental health services, racist schooling, racialised fetishization and misogynoir, internalised misogynoir, "praying mental illness away" and the hesitancy to talk about mental illness, homophobia, Adderal addiction/abuse of prescription speed and standardised testing pressures, homophobic and prejudicial limitations for blood donation, non-Black people using the N word, tokenism and the expectation that if a singular person from a marginalised group is present they are a representative for the whole community, the white washing of American history and specifically the Civil Rights era, how fucked up and fucking anti-Black racist Mormonism is (the Curse of Ham? Go fuck yourselves).

Despite the oppressive social conditions of living in a white Californian suburb and attending a predominantly white, wack Christian school, Book Morgan begins to unfurl a bit and come into her own through interacting with a handful of precious fellow weirdos, the support of her family who means well, and delving into her history that's not being taught at school. Therapy, despite being corny and not culturally literate, helps. She cycles through a couple different meds and begins to feel more energised. This book doesn't end with a cure, or a love story, or any big vindication from the oppressive structures she has to interact with. I like that, it's not neat. Book Morgan just feels a bit better, a bit more like herself, a bit more free, optimistic, able to move forward. That's how life is.

Additional notes:

I was similarly fucking TERRIFIED of the Christian rapture when I learnt about it, and the Christian friend who taught me about it when we were around 11 was obsessed with it, which suggests that this is some kind of actual tactic/mode of control from the Church, scaring kids into being good lest all their friends and family get raptured and they get left behind? Gross. I hate it.

Writer Morgan Parker includes a therapy primer at the end of her book, basically some scripts of what she sends friends/how she accesses mental health resources, to facilitate the process of getting help. I cried reading it. It's invaluable, and I relate to her asides about dropping everything to call or google doctors when a friend reaches out (NOT SORRY!). Including that note at the end is just, I can't explain how touching to me. Writer Morgan Parker and Book Morgan Parker are my people.

In conclusion, I clearly care a lot about this special book, just look at how many f words I used in this review.

anniekslibrary's review against another edition

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Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Who Put This Song On? is a memoir of the author's life, with many fictionalized aspects, according to the author's note in the back. This authenticity really shines through in the novel, as it deals with a lot of heavy topics in a very real way. Morgan felt like a very realistic and relatable main character.

The book is set around the time Obama was first elected as president, which is exactly the time I went to high school too, so this was a really fun read for me, with a lot of recognizable elements in terms of music, fashion and other pop culture references.

The way Morgan deals with her depression and anxiety were very relatable as well. However, I did think this could have been portrayed more elaborately. The book had so much to focus on that it sometimes seemed to lose track, and it felt a little all over the place at times.

It's also a book that's very much focused on topics such as racism, from daily microaggressions to police brutality, and especially on the way this impacts the daily life of one teenage girl. Morgan was a very well-rounded character, but this also meant that the other characters were pretty flat, which was a shame to me. I would have loved to see more of a development of the relationship between Morgan and her parents and brother, for instance.

All in all, this was a very good read, but one that I would have probably enjoyed more if it had been a little more structured.

Rep: black MC, black side characters, gay side character, Afro-Latinx side characters

CWs: racism, police brutality, homophobia, depression, anxiety, mentions of suicide (ideation), alcohol consumption, drug use

luciereads's review against another edition

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3.5 stars
*I received a copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I had mixed feelings on this one. While I thought it was a good book for the most part I did have some issues with it.

Just to quickly deal with writing style & plot: I had no problem with the writing style, I've seen other reviews complain about the use of parentheticals, but as I tend to use those a lot I didn't mind them a lot. As for plot, there's very little of that here which, once again, isn't a huge bother to me as I'm more of a character based reader (especially for contemporaries).

I liked that this showcased a teenager with depression and all the complex feelings that come with dealing with that. I also appreciated how it showed the complex relationships you can have with your family when you're dealing with mental illness. I really felt for Morgan when her parents weren't as supportive about her mental illness, but also appreciated the bright moments she had with her family as I felt that was realistic.

I liked that the book showcased her going to therapy, but I think it would have been really helpful if it was more clear how it was helping her. Morgan spent a lot of time complaining about her therapist (which was fair), but her valid complaints were never dealt with?

I felt that the relationship between Morgan and her friends was unbelievable and not fleshed out enough. At the beginning of the book it felt like she barely knew them, but it's implied that they've been friends for at least a while. But there seemed to be no real reason for a transition into a closer friendship.

The biggest part of the book that I appreciated was just how it dealt with/showcased what it's like growing up in a white/predominately not black suburban area. Especially just thoughts that occur when you're the only black person in class. I know a lot of "issue books" deal with this, but for some reason I related to this one a lot more, maybe because this isn't really an "issue book"?

Overall I did really like this, I think teenage me would've really appreciated it, and if you're interested in contemporary's with less of a straightforward plot I think you'll appreciate it too.

rilu's review against another edition

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Essentially, you need to read this book. If you're struggling, you need this book, if your life is all roses and rose colored glasses (but also, seriously? Who's life is THAT perfect?) you need this book. If you don't know what to read. You need this book. If your life is too much, if you've ever asked yourself "why am I even alive?" or "I can't do this anymore" then you need this book. It won't change your life but it will make it a little bit easier. It will make you smile and sometimes even laugh. It will make you feel less lonely and more a part of something. It did it for me just now.

msarno's review against another edition

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I wish I could give this book more stars. Very smart, funny, voice-driven, earnest, and real. I think more young people need to have and find this book. It would have meant a lot to me as a teen. It means a lot to me now.

mcrystal1000's review

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emotional tense medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


elentari7's review against another edition

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Wonderfully voice-y, so 2000s, very honest. CW for racism (& white people not getting it), homophobia, depression (& family members not getting it), panic attacks, references to past suicide attempts & suicidal ideation, references to past drug use (Adderall), and an unpleasant sexual situation (not assault, but a boy gets racist and angry at a girl who won't put out). And for all that, it's a determined story, not a depressing one.

badmom's review against another edition

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I had the privilege of hearing Morgan Parker read a section of this semi-autobiographical novel at a book festival so her charming grown-up (though still youthful & self-deprecating) voice stayed with me as I read the fictional Morgan Parker’s diary-like account of her 2008-09 school year. Our protagonist is a Black girl living with her family in an affluent area in Southern California; she attends a Christian high school with her brother and a couple of white best friends. The story reads like a journal, addressing situations with vague yet decipherable details that let us know Morgan has been struggling with depression & anxiety for a while. On the eve of Obama’s election, she is reminded even more profoundly of her Blackness and starts delving more intentionally into her identity as a young Black woman, much to the discomfort of many people in her life.

Even as an oldish woman with college-aged kids, I appreciated Parker’s mid-2000s (and a few retro) pop culture references - especially the way she incorporated bands & songs to illustrate her state of mind. As an avowed thrift store/bargain rack shopper, I also enjoyed the use of clothing & outfit choices as insight to identity and attitude.

There were a lot of situations in here for Morgan to try dealing with, as of course there are for any teenager but particularly a young woman of color in a predominately white community, but I think the book would have more staying power overall if Parker had focused more specifically & deeply on just a couple - she could even have a developed a series of focused stories from this engaging young woman’s high school life instead of giving this too-quick surface snapshot of so many tremendously important issues (eg institutional racism & microaggressions, sexual assault, homophobia, drug abuse, mental health care).

marissareads's review against another edition

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Mood: Like, who put this song on?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/ 5 stars
Based on the author’s teenage years, Morgan Parker’s Who Put This Song On? follows her experiences as a black girl attending a predominantly white christian high school. After a suicidal episode, she is diagnosed with clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. Morgan works through therapy, microagressions, rejection, and religious themes. Through friendship, family, and the works of Black revolutionaries, Morgan discovers the courage to be herself.
I feel like this is a book I needed when I was younger. More than that, this book addresses the stigma around mental health in the black community in a way that makes you want to start conversations with your friends and family. Like, let's actually talk about how we feel. Please. Morgan’s words are heartbreaking at times, but they are absolutely real, profound, and relatable. (Also: you can tell this is written by a poet.)

lauralinnea's review against another edition

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This was okay but it's the kind of book that is not that memorable.