Title: Poet of the Wrong Generation
Author: Lonnie Ostrow
Genre: Literary, General Fiction
Book Blurb from Goodreads: “It’s not that I don’t love you, and my tears are yet to dry. But you can’t go back and forth forever and we’ve already said goodbye.”
Through these words, a young poet unearths his musical soul while severing ties with the woman he loves after her stunning betrayal. Unknowingly, in writing this ballad of liberation, he will soon evolve as one of the fastest rising stars on the pop music landscape.
The year is 1991; the place, New York City. Here we meet Johnny Elias, a college student from Brooklyn with boundless adoration for two things in life: timeless popular music, and the heart of a sweet, complicated young woman who is clearly out of his league.
Megan Price not only is the object of Johnny’s affection, but also the only daughter of New York’s most powerful PR woman: the indomitable Katherine Price.
Projecting that her daughter’s boyfriend will never live up to the family standard, Katherine cleverly perpetrates a series of duplicitous schemes to rid Johnny from her high-class world. But in her callous disregard, she inadvertently sets him on a determined course to his improbable musical destiny – while sending her own daughter spiraling down a path of devastation.
Poet of the Wrong Generation tells the symmetrical story of a lovable underdog and his meteoric rise to stardom, his humiliating downfall and his unprecedented attempt to reclaim his place as the unlikely musical spokesman for his generation. At the heart of Poet is a tale of star-crossed lovers and their struggle with unforeseen success and disillusionment, in an attempt to rediscover lasting harmony.
Uniquely integrating a variety of original song compositions, Poet projects the epic clash between true contentment and the fable of stardom’s rewards; a nostalgic journey through the major events of the 1990s, with a cherished cast of characters and a stunningly unpredictable conclusion.
Book Review: The concept for this novel was very unique, and I’m fond of well-done star-crossed lovers (Romeo & Juliet is a favorite of mine), so when the author asked me to read and review this story, I agreed.
And I really enjoyed it. I felt the prologue (and even the blurb, to a certain degree) sets one up to expect a certain kind of crash-and-burn story, where the young man loses his love and becomes famous only to lose himself in the rush and glamour, but really, that’s not what this story is about. Instead, it tells a tale of being true to yourself, despite the pressures of life–parents, family, fame, popularity, and even money.
So here’s a closer look at the Narration, Content, Characters, Artwork, World-Building, and my Overall Response.
Narration: Three out of Five. The narration wasn’t lyrical, but very solid. It gave all the details needed to understand the story without giving a lot of color, specificity, and expression to the description, and I think the focus of the narration on the songs and dialogue is what hindered me, as a reader, from feeling immersed in a world and not just in a story. But the songs and the dialogue are very believable, very character-specific, and the “who and what” is more vital than “where” in this story, anyways.
And I felt the songs stood by themselves just fine (but then, I’m used to reading things like Tolkien or Milne where songs and poems are part of the story). In fact, while I listened to the recordings, I like my “mental version” of the songs better. Without the songs, the narration would’ve been a great deal less vibrant, but as it is, it has a definite flavor and feel all it’s own.
Content: Five out of Five. I really liked the character arcs in this story, and how it’s not just about Johnny and his rise to fame. It covers all of Megan’s challenges, too, and how the couple struggles, together and apart, without being fatalistic. I won’t spoil the ending, but I felt it was very satisfactory, ending on a hopeful note rather than a “don’t pursue fame it’ll just destroy you” kind of tone. And, for a story about a pop star, it was actually very clean, with no sex, very little language, and some references to drugs but not in a glamorous sort of way.
Characters: Four out of Five. Overall, the characters are what really drives this story for me, and not just Johnny and Megan, but Howard, Johnny’s mentor, and his close friends, Andy and Jacqui. I cared about them, and they cared about Johnny, which made the story move forward and the pages fly. However, I did feel like Megan’s mom was presented a little two-dimensionally and that it wasn’t until much, much later in the story that we actually got to see why she’s so controlling and that she truly does care about her daughter, in a self-absorbed sort of way.
Artwork: Subjective. I wasn’t particularly drawn to the cover design, especially since it seemed like the ground was higher on one side of the stream, to where the retaining wall of stone would have to keep the water from filling in the graveyard, but it worked. It definitely depicts a different time, as it isn’t flashy or “modern” in appearance, and I did like the broken record on the one side.
World-Building: Two out of Five. This was the weakest part of the story for me, and I never felt like I got to know the world in which Johnny and Megan lived. Yes, he lived in relative poverty, struggling to make ends meet early on, but I didn’t feel the challenges of it. Similarly, we never really got to experience Megan’s high-end life, the things she would’ve taken for granted, the way she thought or lived or interacted and the people she knew. In fact, it felt like she was pretty sheltered and retiring, despite her mother, and that same sheltered perspective carries the story through. There are references to then-modern events, but I never really felt like I was seeing New York City. Just a little world of a few dozen characters.
But then, the point of the story is the characters, so focusing on them and the songs to the neglect of the world-building isn’t that horrible a literary crime. 🙂
Overall Response: 14 out of 20, or an average of 3.5. For anyone who likes a good story about life and growing into your own person, with a touch of hope and a good helping of romance, this is definitely one worth reading. It won’t be for everyone, as it’s slower in pace thanks to the songs and the thoughtful mood that Johnny’s character has, but it’s a good, solid story, rich in side characters and camaraderie.
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Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Image used by permission from the author.