One of the most critically acclaimed books of the year, Whiting Award-winner Teddy Wayne’s second novel is “more than a scabrous sendup of American celebrity culture; it’s also a poignant portrait of one young artist’s coming of age” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)—and an enduring yet timely portrait of the American dream gone awry.
In his rave on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, Jess Walter praised Wayne’s writing for its “feats of unlikely virtuosity” and the boy at its center as “a being of true longing and depth, and…a devastating weapon of cultural criticism…You’d have to be made of triple platinum not to ache for Jonny Valentine.”
With “assured prose and captivating storytelling” (Oprah.com’s Book of the Week), The Love Song of Jonny Valentine also showcases “one of the most complicated portrayals of the mother-son relationship since Room” (BookPage). Touring the country in a desperate attempt to save a career he’s not sure he even wants, Jonny is both driven by his mother’s ambition and haunted by his father’s absence, constantly searching for a familiar face among the crowds. Utterly convincing, whip-smart, yet endearingly vulnerable, with an “unforgettable” voice (Publishers Weekly, starred review), the eleven-year-old pop megastar sounds “like Holden Caulfield Jr. adrift in Access Hollywood hell” (Rolling Stone).
Called “a showstopper” (The Boston Globe), “hugely entertaining” (The Washington Post), “heartbreakingly convincing” (People), “buoyant, smart, searing” (Entertainment Weekly), and “touching and unexpectedly suspenseful” (The Wall Street Journal), this extraordinary novel has been widely embraced as a literary masterpiece and the rare “satire with a heart” (Library Journal, starred review).
A coming-of-age tale with a modern context, this sharply written novel from the Whiting Writers' Award-winning author of Kapitoil pulls back the curtain on the 21st-century fame machine. Not unlike a certain fever-inducing pop star, tween sensation Jonny Valentine went from YouTube to Madison Square Garden with bubblegum hits like "Guys vs. Girls" and "U R Kewt." Now each decision on his national tour is choreographed for mass appeal, from what team to feature on his baseball hat, to the femme pop star with whom his label stages a date. Along for the ride is his mom Jane, micromanaging his image, scheduling weekly weigh-ins, and generally fending off normalcy to keep a good thing going. But through an intimate first-person characterization masterfully executed by Wayne, we see fame through Jonny's complicated point of view. Beneath the rote catechism of his overmanaged career ("Jane says we're in the business of making fat girls feel like they're pretty for a few hours") are the wholehearted yearnings of a conflicted 11-year-old: his obsession with getting a successful erection, a desire to be like his musical idols, and most of all a quest to reconnect with his father. The smart skewering of the media, both highbrow and low, is wickedly on target. And a mock New Yorker article is a memorable literary lampoon. But the real accomplishment is the unforgettable voice of Jonny. If this impressive novel, both entertaining and tragically insightful, were a song, it would have a Michael Jackson beat with Morrissey lyrics.