Thursday, January 22, 2009


Poised at the Edge Book Review
Stephanie Kuehnert
Emily Black was only four months old when her wild and willful mother Louisa abandoned her to pursue the world of punk rock. All her life Emily has been raised on music (and the fantasy Louisa will one day return to her and her heartbroken father.) Her father Michael has raised in her in a rock and roll tradition that would have made Louisa proud. Michael passes his on his love of punk rock and blues. He teaches Emily to play the guitar from a very young age.
When Emily enters adolescence she and her best friend Regan (who happens to be the daughter of Louisa's best friend Molly) begin hanging out at The River's Edge, the club where Michael and Louisa first fell in love. The girls love to mosh to the best punk rock the small town of Carlisle has to offer. They also love to hook up with all the burgeoning rock gods. Thus begins Emily Black's groupie stage.
But being a groupie is not nearly enough for the girl with Louisa's wild blood pumping through her veins. Emily and Regan begin their own band She Laughs and rock their way right out of Carlisle. All throughout her childhood Emily has put on a rough fa├žade, claiming she doesn't need the mother who was never there for her. Her lyrics tell a different story. Emily has a lot of anger and pain. Eventually it gets the better of her. Just as her band is reaching great heights of success Emily takes off on an odyssey to find her mother (who has spent years purposely not being found.)
I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE is a raw and gritty novel of tremendous unexpected depth. I picked up thinking it was going to be a fun, girl-power, rock and roll story, which it is. But it was so much more than I anticipated. The story, which chronicles the life of Emily (in first person) and Louisa (in third person) goes into very dark places. Both Louisa and Emily experience the horror of violence and sexual assault. This brutality is at the root of why Louisa abandons both the baby and the husband she loves.
Stephanie Kuehnert writes complex characters with complicated believable relationships. The tenderness we see between Emily and her vulnerable father, and the deeply rooted friendship we see between Emily and Regan, feel authentic and precious. This is about as good as a debut novel gets.

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