A disgraced teen pop singer who made his name on a televised talent show finds purpose playing in a new band in this Irish import.
Ryan is newly home from drug rehab and being pushed by his stepfather and former manager, Ricky, to complete secondary school when a fight erupts and Ryan flees Dublin. A chance meeting with smart, driven musician Toni leads him to her hometown of Belfast, where for the first time he has both the freedom to make his own music and the responsibility to make a living entirely on his own. He, Toni, and her band mate, Marysia, instantly click, and he makes money mainly through busking, which keeps his head just above water. The precariousness of Ryan’s situation—living in a hostel and earning just enough to eat—gradually gives way to a more desperate existence, and this experience is realistically rendered and movingly described. Though he stays away from drugs, Ryan’s drinking causes problems in his new life, including between him and Toni, for whom he’s fallen hard. Romance fans will appreciate their ongoing banter even if its outcome is largely predictable. The Northern Irish setting, seen through Ryan’s eyes, is at once understated and vivid. All main characters are white; Marysia, whose family is Polish, is gay.
Engaging and heartfelt, this will appeal to contemporary fiction readers. (Fiction. 14-adult)