THE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE by Teddy Wayne
Kirkus Star

THE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A provocative and bittersweet illumination of celebrity from the perspective of an 11-year-old pop sensation.

In his second novel (Kapitoil, 2010), Wayne once again sees American culture through the eyes of an exceptional outsider—in this case, a pre-pubescent pop star managed by his mother and exploited by everyone involved with his life and career. As the novel’s narrator, Jonny is a complex character who is both wise beyond his years (in the areas of marketing, merchandising and branding) and more naïve in relating to others his age and the world beyond show business. He seems most at home either onstage or in the video game that becomes a metaphor for his life. And if the novel has a weakness, it’s that Wayne seems a little too fond of the telegraphed punch of such symbolism, as when Jonny must write a paper for his tutor about slavery and discovers (surprise!) that much of what he has learned applies to him. Yet, Jonny is such an engaging, sympathetic character that his voice carries the novel, from what he does know (“that was the whole point of becoming a rock star for a lot of guys. I didn’t know that when I started out, but once you see seriously ugly bassists backstage with models, you figure it out”) to what he doesn’t (crucial details about his mother, father, family and career). Rather than turning Jonny into a caricature or a figure of scorn the way some of his critics do (“a cult of personality swirling around a human being who...may not be in possession of...an actual personality”), the novel invites the reader inside Jonny’s fishbowl, showing what it takes to gain and sustain what he has and how easily he could lose it. Best of all is his relationship with an artist who made it through this arduous rite of passage, the Timberlake to Jonny’s Bieber, who teaches him that “The people with real power are always behind the scenes. Talent gets chewed up and used. Better to be the one chewing.”

A very funny novel when it isn’t so sad, and vice versa.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0585-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2012




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Kirkus Interview
Teddy Wayne
author of LONER
September 13, 2016

In Teddy Wayne’s new novel Loner, David Federman has never felt appreciated. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers. Initially, however, his social prospects seem unlikely to change, sentencing him to a lifetime of anonymity. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells. Struck by her beauty, wit, and sophisticated Manhattan upbringing, David becomes instantly infatuated. Determined to win her attention and an invite into her glamorous world, he begins compromising his moral standards for this one, great shot at happiness. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem. “A spectacular stylist, Wayne is deeply empathetic toward his characters, but—brutally and brilliantly—he refuses to either defend or excuse them,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. “A startlingly sharp study of not just collegiate culture, but of social forces at large; a novel as absorbing as it is devastating.” View video >

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