Jonathan Franzen wrote in "The Daily Beast" that "no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for this type of character.]" Now, in "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine," Wayne turns his sharp wit, flawless narrative ventriloquism, and humane sensibility to our monstrous obsession with fame. Read more...
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Jonathan Franzen wrote in "The Daily Beast" that "no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for this type of character.]" Now, in "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine," Wayne turns his sharp wit, flawless narrative ventriloquism, and humane sensibility to our monstrous obsession with fame.
Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don't love him for who he is. The talented singer's image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged--by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane--into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.
Poignant, brilliant, and viciously funny, told through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable child narrators, this literary masterpiece explores with devastating insight and empathy the underbelly of success in 21st-century America. "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine "is a tour de force by a standout voice of his generation.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-03
- Reviewer: Staff
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. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)
Coming of age in the spotlight
Strap on a pair of hi-top sneakers, take an Adderall with your orange juice and prepare yourself for a wild ride with Jonny Valentine, the pop sensation and tween hero of Teddy Wayne’s hilarious and heartbreaking second novel.
Wayne, whose debut was the Whiting Writers’ Award winner Kapitoil, has turned his attention to the high cost of stardom at a young age, following Jonny and his hard-partying manager-mother (a momager, if you will) during a pivotal tour across America. Jonny—who has genuine talent but is also a byproduct of marketing genius if there ever was one—doesn’t remember much about life before it included paparazzi, personal chefs, a bodyguard/best friend and all the designer threads he could possibly want. But this 11-year-old megastar has the simple desires of any preteen: to play his favorite video game, have his back scratched by his mother—and secretly search online for information about his absentee father.
Writing in the voice of a child star is challenging, but Wayne does so superbly. Jonny is a hybrid of naivete and cynicism, unsure of his place in Los Angeles (his new home base) or St. Louis (his original home). Whether he’s dealing with feelings for girls, searching for a father figure in the 20-something lead singer of his opening band or challenging rumors that the label is “this close” to dropping him, at the end of the day he just wants to be loved: by his crew, by his millions of fans and, most of all, by his mother.
An original, poignant and captivating coming-of-age story, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine not only examines our fascination with celebrities but also scrutinizes the boundaries of a tight-knit mother-son relationship. Does Jane Valentine really want what’s best for her son, or does she want him (and his money) all for herself? In an age dominated by Honey Boo-Boos and Disney pop princesses, this is a breathtakingly fresh novel about the dark side of show business.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE
Read a review with Teddy Wayne for The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.