Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE EXES by Pagan Kennedy

THE EXES

By Pagan Kennedy

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83481-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Kennedy (Spinsters, 1995, etc.) makes much of the GenX scene she knows well in this witty, sincere, if fluffy saga of four musicians who form a band with a shot at the big time—if they can only surmount their utterly snarled lives. Hank is a purist, having played his guitar in various groups around home-base Boston until decamping, miffed that perfection’s so hard to find. His musical vision begins to take shape, however, when he teams up with his ex-girlfriend Lilly: her lyrics contain flashes of genius that he can fine-tune. Together they dream up the idea of a band comprised solely of people who used to be lovers—just enough of a hook to get them gigs until their sound can make its own reputation. So bisexual bassist Shaz is recruited fresh from another band she’s soured on because it’s about to sign a record company contract. She brings with her one of her exes, Walt, a gawky Harvard biochemistry grad student, ace drummer, and recent head case. The team in place, Hank and Lilly make the most of it, practicing and promoting until the band is a hot item. But Hank and Lilly become an item again as well, which adds to the stress of pushing the band, and no sooner do they choose to cool it than Lilly decides to get pregnant by her regular boyfriend. When the band goes on its first extended tour, Shaz, ever-wary of being compromised by commercial demands, balks. Hank moves quickly to find a replacement, alienating Walt—and so it goes, four paths diverging along the rocky road to success. Touchingly open and amusing, though the story, barely distinguishable from standard sitcom fare, suffers from a cloying feel-goodness. Every character’s so likable, and so conventional, that Kennedy defeats her own purpose.