A funny, raucous, nostalgic, and emotional journey through the politics of family, young love, peer pressure, and...


Set to the soundtrack of 1980s music, this tale follows an awkward teenager coming of age while finding love and redemption in the Midwest.

Bahar’s debut novel is autobiographical down to the characters’ names. His fictional Ron Bahar is the quintessential outsider: a half-Israeli, half-Indian living in Lincoln, Nebraska. The only Jew in his high school class, he feels terminally self-conscious, suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, falls hopelessly in love with a gentile girl (against his parents’ dictates), and constantly lives in the shadow of much cooler friends like Tommy: “How…is it fair that tonight, he stars in a high-school football game, drinks like a fish at a post-game party, gets an escort in his chariot, and spends the night alone at home with Ms. Bodacious?” Naturally, Ron is also an A student dedicated to achieving his parents’ dream for him: to become a doctor. Bahar wields biting humor like a sword, skewering everything from the trials and tribulations of growing up to rock ’n’ roll and the expectations of parents and peers. He deftly uses pop culture as a metaphor for his namesake’s life in the form of song lyrics and references to television and radio. Ron’s love life consists largely of a platonic relationship with an insecure girl and a series of wrong moves at the worst possible times—both with her and other women. But amid the unrelenting teenage angst that seems to define Ron’s existence while providing readers with endless, albeit empathetic, laughter, this protagonist has a secret weapon: his voice. While his parents would prefer he only use this talent singing in temple, Ron displays a passion for music and works as a roadie for The Well Endowed, a local band big on the bar mitzvah scene. Things get even more interesting for Ron and his circle when his skill elevates him from a mere musical hanger-on to the titled frontman. Ultimately, the hero of this sharp, witty tale should find a place in every reader’s heart.

A funny, raucous, nostalgic, and emotional journey through the politics of family, young love, peer pressure, and individuality.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943006-44-1

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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