Summary - Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?
Review - I have been wanting to read this novel for what seems like forever. Thanks goodness for Alexa. I was suffering a severe case of hype-fear as I began reading but then realised 1) IWBYJR wasn't at all like I expected and 2) I loved Emily.
Emily Black is "dark and twisty" (to quote a show I have long given up on). I was expecting something fast paced, brutally honest and kinda warped (all which I got) but I didn't expect a sweeping family saga. I am not someone who lives through a character, I usually empathise but never walk in their footsteps. This was different. Emily and I are night and day. In fact, I am pretty sure that Emily would make fun of me and that I would have been scared of her. Yet, I travelled as her through the twists and turns, months and years, successes and monumental failures.
I understand her better than I understand myself. I love that she adores her father, smokes like a chimney, plays like a pro and wails like a banshee. I love her, flaws and all and believe me that there are plenty of flaws. Emily has a through line that she never deviates from, it's all about the music, which in turn is all about her mother. Even when she convinces herself it's not about the music...it is. I loved this and even more, Kuehnert has made a music genre that I have never "gotten" much more accessible. (I have even been downloading some essentials.)
Every character is amazingly stretched out through the novel. I say stretch because they each have their stories as well. Reagan, Michael, Louisa, Tom, even the noxious Johnny, and the book is richer because of it. Not because we got to know the characters but because we got to know these character through the Emily lens - grimy, loud and with ugly precision.
"Hitting him felt like I had wanted sex to feel". Everything written in this book, even when written with a light touch has a savagery about it that is compelling, entertaining and very different to what I normally read. I lapped it up.
This is an unbelievably affecting debut effort and I feel lucky to have read Kuehnert's words. She's got a long career ahead of her and I know I will be ordering her sophomore effort as soon as amazon will let me.
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: MTV Books
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Stephanie Kuehnert's Official Website