Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
Review by Noelle: September 21, 2011
Published May 1, 2010 by Little Brown and Company
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Irrepressible hope and relentless optimism are amazing and impressive...and you know what else? Extremely annoying. Yes, dear readers, I was one of those people giving Amber Appleton the side-eye for the entire first half of the book.
Sure, I empathized with her horrible situation and admired the spunk in her survival skills but I still resisted the crap out of her charm. I found her hugging obsession creepy. Her “JC” name dropping made me itch. Her slang felt unnaturally shoehorned into her otherwise SAT-word laden inner dialogue. Her group of “special” school friends felt just too precious to be real. And for goodness sake, did she have to give everything five word nicknames just to use the acronym for it?! Amber would do something promising and then follow it up with something that made me cringe.
Yet I stuck around for a couple reasons, the main one being Amber is not portrayed as trying to be perfect. She gets offended and swears and lashes out. Amidst all the “up with people!” moments there were also glimpses of a teenager I could recognize--an angry, unappreciated, emotional adolescent that I found extremely easy to root for. I think my opinion of Amber permanently turned around after her interactions with the Korean Divas for Christ, Private Jackson and even Joanie of Old (see what I mean about nicknames?). For all of her inappropriate methods and pushiness, Amber has such a good heart. Even though at times her world must seem so small, Amber never sees it that way. Her hope makes it endless. Amber not only recognizes the loneliness around her, she is genuinely interested in these people’s lives. She sees what makes them who they are and without making a big deal about it, celebrates it every day. She will shine her floodlight of hope on anyone who gives her the chance.
She really, truly is sorta like a rock star.
And then Amber’s already extremely shitty life gets horribly worse and Amber's belief system is shaken to the core. I realized that I too had been just one more person underestimating Amber’s value and how much I’d grown to depend on her enthusiasm and optimism.
Yes, there is a definite cheesiness factor here between the After School Specialness of the Five and the nature of the ending, but dammit if I didn't soak it all up like a freaking hopeful sponge. You won this one, Amber Appleton.
Also, the haikus--the last two in particular--were, as Amber would say, some good hooey.
Rating: 4/5 stars I definitely recommend this book.