by Teddy Wayne
Hardcover, 304 pg.
Free Press, 2013
Read: Dec. 25, 2013
Jonny Valentine, the 11-year-old pop sensation, desperately wants to reach adolescence (probably not all that different from others his age) — but he’s very, very aware what that will do to his voice, his appearance — overall, his appeal to the tween and teen demographics. And he’s counting on it, if he doesn’t sell more to teen girls, he’s sunk. His career is dead.
That’s not the only part of his life that he sees in marketing terms. His haircut, the amount of fat and calories he consumes, his video gaming, exercises, amount of sleep — everything is micromanaged to the nth degree by his mother/manager, studio, vocal coach, and, to a lesser extent, his bodyguard (the closest thing her has to a friend). Everything he thinks, everything he wears he runs through a mental calculus wondering what it’ll do for sales, social media exposure, ticket sales, etc. How anyone can deal with this all, much less a near-adolescent, is unfathomable.
Honestly, ticket sales and record sales have dropped off a little for this phenom, so the record company begins to take a more hands-on approach to things — inventing news stories, coming up with a new media relations plan, etc. etc. And Jonny’s life becomes a little harder.
At the core of this story though, is a little kid, who just wants to be a little kid. He wants his mom to be more of a mom than a manager, he wants to spend time with his best friend from before he made it big, he wants to screw around and play. At the end of the day, I feel more pity for Jonny than I did for Auggie Pullman from Wonder.
Most of the observations/comments on/critiques of celebrity culture that are given here, are things we’ve all seen or made ourselves. But by putting them into the mouth and head of a kid, rather than an outsider adult, makes it all so much more effective.
Darkly comic (not terribly funny, though), insightful, sympathetic. A worthwhile read.
N. B. just because this is about an eleven-year-old, don’t for a second think this is appropriate reading material for that age. This isn’t MG, this is written for an adult audience.