Reviews

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

dianametzger's review against another edition

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3.0

Entertaining and fast read. Didn't necessarily feel like it was truly the voice of an 11 year old boy, even a precocious one, but it was an enjoyable read for sure. Especially if you're into celebrity culture, it's a fun takedown.

viewtoakel's review against another edition

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2.0

File Under: Books that everyone else seems to love, but Kel does not

joelkarpowitz's review against another edition

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3.0

We live in a strange world. Celebrity has grown from a byproduct of accomplishment to an end in and of itself, and the upshot of it is a culture that is increasingly obsessed with itself and with its own image. We create viral superstars--cats with angry faces, news bystanders with catchy phrasing, children caught on tape being children--and then we discard them without a thought. We obsessively follow traditional celebrities--to confirm that they're just like us, that we could be living their lives if the cards had been dealt slightly differently--and then we revel in their failures, their flaws, their shortcomings.

Teddy Wayne's The Love Song of Jonny Valentine chronicles a piece of this modern world, as well as in the additional burdens placed on child stars, by following eleven-year-old superstar Jonny Valentine on his second cross-country tour. As Jonny deals with the re-emergence of his disappeared father, the challenges of puberty, and an increasingly slew of bad publicity, he also must rise the challenge of performing in sold-out arenas across the country. Wayne shines a satirical light on the trappings of celebrity--the hangers on who may or may not be true friends, the obsession with body image and media savvy attention to detail, the stereotypical manager/mom parental nightmare--but he also has a lot of sympathy for Jonny, who does not seem to realize when his parroting of the tabloid culture he lives in sounds more pathetic than knowing. He is, as the title indicates, a boy searching to be loved, and to define what exactly that means.

At times Wayne is overly obvious with his metaphors: Jonny's obsession with whether or not he is officially in puberty (and he models plenty of bad teenage behavior as the book goes on) is about as direct an acknowledgment as you could expect of the way he is trapped between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. His attempts at beating his favorite video game and his tutor's subject of choice (slavery) also have clear ties to Wayne's somewhat obvious sentiment that this sort of lifestyle may ultimately be extremely unhealthy for a child, tween, teen, or young adult--even the strongest of them. Subtlety is not his strong point in addressing this theme, but he does ultimately draw an interesting character in Jonny. While the young star idolizes the rare star that does seem to emerge unscathed (Tyler Beats, as obvious a Justin Timberlake stand in as Jonny for Justin Bieber), Jonny's future is no where near as certain, as increasing revelations about his own behavior and that of his mother and father threaten to drag him down. Yet as silly, spoiled, and naive as Jonny was, I did still find myself rooting for and sympathizing with him. And as I am as quick as most to roll my eyes at the endless line of child-stars who seem to go off the deep end (Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, etc. etc. etc.) but Wayne reminds us with empathy that perhaps escaping such a fate is the exception rather than the rule and that children are after all children, and to expect them to grow up in such a crucible and come through unsinged is just not realistic. There is a cost for our entertainment, and it is paid with the souls of the entertainers.

It reminds me of the opening lines of The Great Gatsby--another, much better novel exploring the damage and the contorting impact that money and success can have. As Nick remembers his father's advice:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

I'd always assumed those lines were about the ways Nick judges people less successful than himself and his own moneyed family. But perhaps they're a reminder to be careful in how we judge Gatsby, Daisy, and even Tom. Money, success, and (today) fame may bring temporal satisfaction, but we cannot forget the price they charge as well. Being normal--like Nick, like Jonny's audience, like me--has its advantages.

Grade: B-

petersenftleben's review against another edition

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Well-written, good voice, fun idea. But I got bored pretty quickly and put it aside. I just didn't think there was enough going on in the beginning to grab me, and Jonny's life as a child pop star moved surprisingly slowly to me.

rocketiza's review against another edition

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3.0

I didn't actively dislike the book, but it was so meh I almost gave it two stars.

ceelabee's review against another edition

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4.0

I wish I could give this one three and a half stars because I love the voice and style. If you liked Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, you might like this look at life through the eyes of an 11 year old boy, albeit a media saavy, international pop star 11 year old.

pino_sabatelli's review against another edition

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3.0

Tre stelle e mezza.
Leggendo la storia di Jonny, più che a Justin Bieber (o a Miley Cyrus, o a qualunque altro enfant prodige sfornato dallo show business d’oltreoceano negli ultimi sessant’anni da Shirley Temple in poi), a me è venuto da pensare a tutti quei mentecatti che, in nome di un quarto d’ora di celebrità, si fanno sbranare dagli osceni meccanismi dei talent/reality show o a quei bambini mostruosi (e ai loro ancor più mostruosi genitori) che infestano il palinsesto televisivo con agghiaccianti performance canore, culinarie o di altro tipo.
Perché tutti loro vorrebbero diventare esattamente quello che è Jonny Valentine, e a qualsiasi costo.
La recensione completa su http://www.ifioridelpeggio.com/cera-una-volta-lo-zecchino-doro-la-ballata-di-jonny-valentine-di-teddy-wayne/

miajmu's review against another edition

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3.0

A suprisingly sad look at the life of a teen idol... who would have thought that reading this would make me feel back for Justin Beiber?

maggiemaggio's review against another edition

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4.0

The one constant thought I had the entire time I was reading this book was that I wished Jonny was just a little bit older. He's 11-years-old, which is pretty damn young. A lot of sexual situations he was in made me rather uncomfortable, but I guess sometimes that's the point of a good book. The book is told from Jonny's perspective and while in some ways he's very much 11 years old, in other ways he's a business-minded adult.

This is an incredibly well written book. One of my favorite parts was how subtle the book was, which wasn't what I was expecting. Because the book is from Jonny's perspective you don't really know what's happening with all of the adults, who run Jonny's life, you only see this small portion of the machine that's actually behind his career. Jonny's mother didn't seem so terrible to me for much of the book, but then I started to notice little things here and there that made me question her and then at the end I was disgusted by her. The bodyguard and the teacher seem like they should be the good guys, but there are so many layers with all of the characters that it's really hard to tell who has Jonny's best interests in mind, which I suppose is the point of the book since it mirrors real life.

I'm stopping now. Bottom line: this is an intelligent, funny, sad, sweet book about a child superstar that as far as I can tell seems pretty accurate to real life.

This review first appeared on my blog.

emilybryk's review against another edition

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I spent a year as a tutor to child stars. It was a good gig, and there's a lot about that world that lends itself really well to a novel. In that way, I liked this a lot. But I didn't finish it.

Here's the deal: honestly, I think it's lazy work to explain away a character's screwed up-ness as being the result of the loss of an infant. I've been there. So with the big reveal, I packed it in. There wasn't much left, but it made me lose faith.