Rummanah Aasi
  I don't consider myself to be a music expert, but I am definitely a fan and I do love a variety of music genres. Like movies, music is another form of storytelling. Movies use images, dialogue, and actors to express a story and emotion. Whereas music uses melody, instruments, and lyrics to tell its story. Both are unique and fascinating that allow us to express our emotions when we are not able to do so. Sometimes if you throw literature into the mix, it becomes even better or just scrambled and forced like it did in Adios, Nirvana.

Description: It's been a year since Jonathan has lost his twin brother in a fatal bus accident. He has been unable to come to terms with his grief and faces the possibility of repeating his junior year unless he gets his act together. The only way to move to next year and stay with his friends, Jonathan must attend all of his classes, help an ailing 88 year old war veteran write his memoir, and perform his principal's favorite song at graduation in front of the school community. Will Jonathan come through or will he say adios to nirvana?

Review: It is hard to describe Adios, Nirvana. The themes of grief and death are definitely serious, dark and heartbreaking, but the author tries to save his book from being another after-school special by infusing it with countless references to music, particularly of the Seattle grunge scene, as well as poets such as Whitman and Homer. Instead of being uplifting it becomes uneven both in plot as well as character development.
  The mission given to Jonathan by his principal is both unrealistic and too convenient. Of course it allows the school to show their support in Jonathan's long recovery, but it is just to easy to achieve. By meeting an ailing man in hospice is the driving force that allows Jonathan to learn and accept death; however, as a reader I don't buy his growth. I still see the sarcastic and cynical Jonathan from the beginning of the novel and I think this is due to the fact that everything wraps up too quickly just when they are starting to slowly unravel.
  It is obvious that Jonathan is in a dark place. When we first meet him, he is suicidal and tries to fall of a bridge. He only saves himself by thinking about how the loss of his life will affect his thicks, best friends, and his mother. He constantly drinks Red Bull and takes No Doz to avoid sleeping and meeting the 'dragon' that haunts him. He only seeks refuge in writing poetry, which he received brief celebrity status at his school, and secretly plays music. Jonathan has always seen himself as his brother Telemachus's shadow. This is told to us by Jonathan, but never shown. Telemachus never appears, neither in flashbacks or in spirit, in the book at all, which is a shame because that would allow the reader to track Jonathan's development and get into his psyche a bit better. As for the other characters, they don't make much of any impression and come across as one dimensional.
  There are several allusions to songs, which ironically is not a lot from the band Nirvana as I expected, but rather from a potpourri of artists and music genres. Their connections are either fully explained to the reader or not at all, thus lose their significance and come across as the author making his knowledge known to the reader. Similarly, there are also lots of allusions to literary figures and poems, but they don't necessarily fit with the narrative and characters. Adios, Nirvana is a mess, but I think readers who love music and poetry will take to this book.


Rating: 3 stars


Words of Caution: There is some language in the book as well as crude humor. There is also some allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jonathan Sonnenblick
3 Responses
  1. ComaCalm Says:

    It sounds interesting enough to read, will add it to my wishlist!


  2. Jenny Says:

    Hm. This one does sound like there's a lot going on, and it's too bad some of the musical references aren't always explained fully so if we're not familiar with them the connection is lost on us. I think I'll pass on this one but you wrote a beautiful review!


  3. ComaCalm: Let me know what you think when you get to read it.

    Jenny: Thank you! Yes, everything was jumbled and even the connections that it did make were unsatisfying.


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