Johnny's had kind of a tough life so far, and he's always been a bit of a freak. His goth look usually includes black nail polish and a little mascara.When he discovers Debbie Harry, the lead singer of Blondie, he not only likes her music but realizes that he kind of, sort of, wants to BE her. He'd like to be cool and tough and beautiful like her. He'd like to dress like her. He's not gay, at least he doesn't think so. So what does it mean? And what should he tell his amazing new girlfriend?
This wise, hip novel introduces shades of gray into the black-and-white ideas of sexuality and gender. Anyone who has ever wished they could be a little bit tough and a little bit glamorous will recognize themselves in Johnny.
In this impressive debut novel, the "problem" (transvestitism) is so nimbly woven into the narrative that it will barely surprise readers. After a successful stay at a rehab facility, 17-year-old Johnny, a recovering alcoholic, is sent by his mother to live with her late husband's brother, Sam. There he begins a relationship with fellow prep-school student Maria; they bond over music and over their outcast status (classmates falsely assume Johnny is gay and taunt him). Johnny harbors a throwback fascination with Debbie Harry ("I imagined her as a cross between Jean Seberg from Breathless and the St. Pauli Girl. I wanted that voice to sing to me forever"), and Maria nurtures it, even when it folds into a desire to look like Harry tough and beautiful. It's Maria who encourages him to perform, dressed as Harry, in a drag contest. Meanwhile Johnny's relationship with his uncle provides some of the most touching scenes: through Sam, Johnny comes to know his late father not as a withdrawn, road-weary businessman but as someone more surprising (and more like him). Although the novel can feel plot-heavy, the brisk pace and the strong-willed, empathetic narrator will keep readers fully engaged. Ages 14 up.
my new favorite
this book is a little odd, which makes it so great. I'm not sure that everyone will like this book, but it is definitely worth the read.