Rummanah Aasi
    I came across my next read while browsing the public library's YA stacks. I'm the type of person who chooses a book based on how catchy the title is instead of the covers. I guess I'm weird, but most of the time this is how I stumble upon a good book. There were two things that came to mind when my eye caught a book titled Debbie Harry Sings In French. My first thought was: Is it talking about Debbie Harry as in the lead singer of Blondie or a girl who happens to have the same name? After reading the flap, my second thought was: A teen who knows and even likes Blondie?! Really? I knew then and there that I had to check it out.
   My love of New Wave 80s music comes to no surprise for my close group of friends. They already know that approximately 90% of my music collection comes from that era. I'm told frequently that I was born in the wrong generation and I think they maybe right. Truth be told, I was surprised to find a current YA book where the main character knew and listened to same type of music that I did while in high school and continue to do so. Most of the teens that I know are not aware of New Wave 80s music. I remember that during an advisory class that I student taught, teens were talking about Flo Rida's first single "You Spin My Head Right Round". I had made an off comment that I liked the original song by Dead or Alive much better. I got stares from the teens and I could here the clock ticking. They had no clue and I had to educate them. How could I not? I didn't blame their music tastes, but the fact that they weren't born yet when the song was played.

Description: When Johnny's father dies unexpectantly in a car accident, he is forced to grow up quickly. He takes control while his mother grieves for months. He turns to alcohol to deal with his own grief and to numb out. After a near death incident, Johnny is sent to a rehab program. His mother, now ready to face life once again, does not approve of his Goth fashion statement and sends him to live with his uncle in South Carolina. During his stay, he meets Maria, who seems to understand his fascination with the new wave band Blondie.


Review:  I finished this book in one setting and enjoyed it very much. Johnny is not your typical GLBTQ character. He knows that he is straight because he has a very big crush on Maria, but he can't help but yearn to be someone like Debbie Harry. To Johnny, Debbie is much more than a sexy singer. Debbie Harry symbolizes what Johnny wants: beauty and fierceness. Brother's debut novel tackles the gray shades of transvestism. Although he is constantly bullied and his sexuality is mistaken, Johnny is certain of himself. His problem is not finding out who he is, but rather in how to express himself, which is shown during a drag show contest at the climax of the novel.

   Although there are enough "issues" in the book such as the themes of neglect, isolation, and drugs that shape Johnny's and Maria's life that may distract reviewers, I was never bothered by it. The plot was well placed and I loved the characters. I was cheering Johnny and wanted him to express his inner Debbie Harry. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find my Blondie cd and play "Heart of Glass" as a salute to Johnny.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language in the book. The teens in the book go to a gay bar. There is also reference to sex, but nothing explicit.

If you like this book, try:  Freak Show by James St. James, Beige by Cecil Castelucci, or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger.  
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