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Ballads of Suburbia

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An aspiring film writer tells about her troubled teen years in the Chicago suburbs when she and her friends tried to escape the pain of their lives through rock music and drugs.


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An aspiring film writer tells about her troubled teen years in the Chicago suburbs when she and her friends tried to escape the pain of their lives through rock music and drugs.

30 review for Ballads of Suburbia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days, yes haunting me. After I finished, I couldn't help but sit there in a daze. The first thing that popped into my head was "WOW." Granted my emotions were in complete chaos. This isn't a novel for the faint hearted. This novel is moving, it's upsetting, it's heartbreaking, it's real. Had I read this before I met Stephanie at ALA, I would have most likely hugged her and cried. She has an amazing talent. AMAZING. Even though I haven't experienced This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days, yes haunting me. After I finished, I couldn't help but sit there in a daze. The first thing that popped into my head was "WOW." Granted my emotions were in complete chaos. This isn't a novel for the faint hearted. This novel is moving, it's upsetting, it's heartbreaking, it's real. Had I read this before I met Stephanie at ALA, I would have most likely hugged her and cried. She has an amazing talent. AMAZING. Even though I haven't experienced anything like Kara went through, even though I was so blissfully unaware of the world she lived in. I felt like I did. Like I said amazing talent. And it wasn't just Kara, all of the characters felt like they could walk right off the pages. And I never judged them and that totally surprised me. I never once thought druggie loser, and I should have. Which again, comes back to Stephanie's amazing talent as a writer. To take something that I always thought was black and white and turn it into something gray. I'm still in awe days later. Thank you Stephanie for telling this story. I can't wait to see what you have in store for us next.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    4.5 stars Man, it's just effed up. I cried like twice. I've had a copy of this book for almost a year now, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I've never done drugs and I don't drink; however, I'm surprised how I felt like I could relate to some of these characters in a way. And I think that there is something that everyone can relate to in these characters. Stephanie Kuehnert did such a great job on them and their stories. Ballads of Suburbia is filled with friendships, anger, sadness 4.5 stars Man, it's just effed up. I cried like twice. I've had a copy of this book for almost a year now, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I've never done drugs and I don't drink; however, I'm surprised how I felt like I could relate to some of these characters in a way. And I think that there is something that everyone can relate to in these characters. Stephanie Kuehnert did such a great job on them and their stories. Ballads of Suburbia is filled with friendships, anger, sadness, love, heartbreak and self-destruction. And in the end, even though it isn't a happily ever after story, there's still a bit of hope. It's the most real and rawest story I've probably ever read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aly (Fantasy4eva)

    Kara has returned to Oak Park to confront those she walked away from after overdosing. She wanted a new fresh start, but in order for that to happen, maybe she needs to face those that were a part of her life, one last time. To be honest, as I read along, I thought to myself, that I really don't think I have ever come across more fucked up characters. I'm being honest here. I mean, they were so reckless and self - destructive that I found it emotionally draining and too painful to just witness. Kara has returned to Oak Park to confront those she walked away from after overdosing. She wanted a new fresh start, but in order for that to happen, maybe she needs to face those that were a part of her life, one last time. To be honest, as I read along, I thought to myself, that I really don't think I have ever come across more fucked up characters. I'm being honest here. I mean, they were so reckless and self - destructive that I found it emotionally draining and too painful to just witness. But as things became more bleaker, I knew I had no choice but to wait for it to all go downhill. I mourned every loss. Shed tears. It was incredibly hard for me to just have to watch as characters I grew to care for, fell apart and lost their life. This book portrays perfectly how damaging, lack of communication between parent and child can be. I mean these characters were just children, where were their parents, huh, where were they? Let me tell you now. This is by no means an easy read. I kept thinking to myself, if this book doesn't make you look away in disgust at the mere mention of drugs, then nothing will. The way that drugs ruins these children's lives is just horrific. Kara was the one I really struggled with though. I thought she was so damn selfish that for the first time, I had no interest in forgiving her. That would change with time, but not until a lot later. Liam was someone I really rooted for. As I watched his life spiral out of control, once again my frustration leaned on his sister Kara. Why had she been so stupid and reckless in allowing her brother to head towards this path when she knew first hand just how awful it was. Let's talk about Adrian. Definitely made me swoon, but I was always aware of the fact that he had this destructive side to him. It made me weary, but the romantic in me wanted to put all that aside and focus on smexy him. He has the qualities of the bad boy I know and love, but the author is very clear in letting you know that he is far from perfect. He is the - potentially - ruining - your - life sort. On one hand, you want him and Kara to be happy together, but it becomes clear that he is hurting and too damaged to really commit. You hope though. And in the end, after all this time, you want that happy ending so bad. You think, these two have been through hell and somehow dammit they've made it out alive. But reality, guys, is never as simple as that. It's a tough ending. One that really bothered me for a while. As much as that place caused so much pain, I have such an urge to visit Scoville Park. However, is it even right to lie to myself like that? Do I really think the moment I step foot, that it will have the same vibe, and look the same as it did in the nineties. Do I really think if I ever visit, I'll see the grinning faces of Kara, Cass, Maya, Quentin, Liam and Adrian fooling around. It took a while, but towards the end, I realised that I had really started to care for them, a lot actually. Maybe that's why it's hard to remind yourself that it's fiction at times - especially when you become attached. Gosh I don't know. I just really miss them and Scoville Park. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a tough read. It's unnerving, gritty and quite dark. BUT it's also very thought provoking, hard - hitting and memorable. It really impacted me and left me in thought for a while. It's so tragic, but the full realisation of what they really went through won't hit you until the very end. And when it does, it's haunting and very hard to ignore and move on from. It stays with you. It's an amazing read. A must read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Marr

    I've read & LOVED both of Kuehnert's books. No sugarcoating. No BS. She writes beautiful terrible truths. I've read & LOVED both of Kuehnert's books. No sugarcoating. No BS. She writes beautiful terrible truths.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I STOPPED READING "BALLADS OF SUBURBIA" ON PAGE 163. THIS REVIEW IS OF THE FIRST 163 PAGES. I DON'T MEAN TO OFFEND ANYONE WITH THIS REVIEW. Okay, this is a tough one. Because, you see, the thing is, Ballads of Suburbia is a great book for a certain person. I'm just not that person. It sounds like a nice way of breaking up with someone, but it's true: Ballads of Suburbia really is an amazing, searing book for those of you out there. It's one of those odd books that I couldn't get away from the acknow I STOPPED READING "BALLADS OF SUBURBIA" ON PAGE 163. THIS REVIEW IS OF THE FIRST 163 PAGES. I DON'T MEAN TO OFFEND ANYONE WITH THIS REVIEW. Okay, this is a tough one. Because, you see, the thing is, Ballads of Suburbia is a great book for a certain person. I'm just not that person. It sounds like a nice way of breaking up with someone, but it's true: Ballads of Suburbia really is an amazing, searing book for those of you out there. It's one of those odd books that I couldn't get away from the acknowledgement in Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves: this book is not for you. I've never met a book that was less for me than "Ballads of Suburbia", but that doesn't mean I still can't recommend it. I thought I would love "Ballads of Suburbia", because I love the 90s. I love period pieces that aren't really period pieces, not in the way that a Jane Austen adaptation is, but are about a period in modern history. Modern history is just so fascinating to me. But I was born in 1994. I'm a child of the 90s in the most literal sense, in that watching "Arthur" and using my 'dial up connection' to get to the Internet (in about twenty minutes...) were my childhood. I'm not a teenager of the 90s - I'm around the same age as Kuehnert's characters now, in 2012. I don't know anything about the punk/rock scene in Ballads the way that I'm sure most of the readers Kuehnert's aiming at do. A lot of the time I found myself thinking, "why can't this book be more accessible? I've no idea who these people/bands are..." But I was missing the point, because Kuehnert's story is more of a love letter to the survivors of that generation. It would have felt wrong to have massive info dumps about the music Kara and her friends listen to, but it didn't mean that I could bring myself to care. Another problem that I had with Ballads of Suburbia was SO. MUCH. ANGST. You get used to angst as a YA reader (and a YA yourself) because, let's be honest, most of our teenage years run on angst. Therefore, most of our YA books also run on angst. That's not a bad thing. But Ballads of Suburbia -- can we say dysfunction junction, already? Kara herself is a depressed, self-destructive, drug-addicted cutter for most of the novel. Kara's boyfriend was abandoned by his cold-hearted mother to extremely abusive adoptive parents. Kara's ex-best friend essentially pimps herself out to boys because of her waste-of-space dad and druggie mother. Kara's current best friend is the self-harming child of a mother who committed suicide. Kara's best friend's friends are a biracial brother/sister team who feel totally cut off from anyone else because of their skin colour, but also have a seriously mentally ill mother who is incapable of taking care of them, and the sister is abandoned by the brother because he can't cope with it. And, to be honest, that's all the major characters I met while I was reading. Kara never runs into anyone without a monster sob story (I guess most readers would call that a ballad?) attached to them. Of course the culture Kara's in attracts people who are a little bit messed up. But in what I read it seemed like every character had a soap opera backstory. Now, this just shows how subjective this book felt to me, because I'm sure a lot of people that felt "honest" and "raw" and "unflinching" and "true." To me, it just felt like a parodic parade of teen angst clichés. There's a lot of self-harm, depression and illness here, but I never felt that it reached past the obvious on anything of them. Kara feels a 'release' when she cuts herself. Drugs are all characters' way of escaping. It all feels so...typical and passive. I know that sounds cold, but it did seem to lack originality towards the topics. I'm sure everyone has a ballad, but I very much doubt that everyone has ballads that are quite so dramatic, intense or extreme. I also started to feel unsympathetic towards Kara, simply because, in comparison to all the abusive parents, unpleasant sex, beatings and mental illness, Kara's tale of divorce and loneliness just felt all a bit...minor. I felt like I was watching a production line of angsty stories and angsty characters that never really appeared again (for instance, Stacey seemed to more or less disappear from the story after her ballad. Having not finished the novel, though, I can't judge.) Kuehnert wanted Ballads to be a sprawling novel of this punk 90s generation, but it felt like she pressed the same button too many times for it to achieve the scope she wanted. But it doesn't surprise me that so many people love this book. I suppose it helps if you can relate. I couldn't. Also, the sheer level of angst had reached a point of diminishing returns for me at the time that I gave up on Ballads. Everyone is so angry but no-one is angrier than Kara, the main character, but her journey didn't seem half as interesting as the characters that Kuehnert spotlighted for maybe only a minute. For a lot of Kara's bitching about how she took a drugs overdose and still managed to get into USC and move out of her small town, I couldn't help but want to shout something extremely hackneyed and mean like, "white girl problems, already?". Just about everyone else just seemed to have a much deeper and more interesting struggle than Kara, and I couldn't stay invested enough in her story to keep reading. Most of these characters who have endured these horrible things are, realistically, unpleasant and unhappy. Their ballads are supposed to give them depth but it just seemed like an endless varient on the standard YA theme - "they fuck you up, your mum and dad." By trying to make Ballads a book about all these characters, it seemed to end up as a story about none of them.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Isamlq

    Ballads of Suburbia has me feeling exactly as I did after How To Kill A Rock Star, as in geez.. do I hate it or I love it? I was sucked in that’s for sure. Kara’s story is depressing and sad; the all of those others around her were equally so. One would think that stories such as the ones found here have been done to death already. Starting with the ordinary day to day of family drama, moving on teenage angst of being friendless and placeless, then the getting out of one’s shell, to finding one’ Ballads of Suburbia has me feeling exactly as I did after How To Kill A Rock Star, as in geez.. do I hate it or I love it? I was sucked in that’s for sure. Kara’s story is depressing and sad; the all of those others around her were equally so. One would think that stories such as the ones found here have been done to death already. Starting with the ordinary day to day of family drama, moving on teenage angst of being friendless and placeless, then the getting out of one’s shell, to finding one’s people and finding one’s own thing like drugs (a lot of drugs) and music. Her story went up then down then down then down. YET, here I am still thinking about it. I enjoyed the idea of each person having a story to share, a ballad (as the title offers) about something in their past explaining some of why they'd ended up as they were. They each had their own drama. And while normally, I’d be rolling my eyes over their ‘woe is me, my dad is an ass, or my brother’s abandoned me, or my parents have split… so my life-is-shit schtick (that all of them had going), I read and bought the drama (some more than others, but I bought the drama nonetheless.) The biggest negative I encountered was how out of place a mature observation seemed to come up out of nowhere, where one of them would for one reason or another wisened up and said they were going down a bad path because otherwise, all of them went with things with little complaint (some happily even.) It just seemed so out of the blue and out of place with all the angsting. It’s very angst filled and all of them could be very self-absorbed… Yet together, sometimes they could be better, not so alone, less unhappy about what they had to deal with, but they just never became 'good,' more often they simply dragged each other down. Each person in this is far from perfect, but I choked up for some, wanted something a little different for each of them. It’s definitely not a happy story, given the very few happy moments in it, but I shock myself in admitting that I’ve committed a major book no-no because by the books end… I’d found I’d dog-eared a couple (heck, more than a couple) of pages in it. A steady climb from 1 to 4 of 5. (Now, I wonder where I can get a copy of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. I’d gladly swap my copy of this for that one.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Europaea

    A decade ago I know my opinion of this book would have been much different. Now that I'm older and jaded and cranky I just feel like this was a repetitive mess of a wannabe punk scene with no real insights, descriptions or development. Kara is an awkward MC that barely grows through almost 400 pages. As a recovering addict I could relate to the drink, get high, screw around, repeat factor and for that there was some realism however, it does not make for a stimulating read and sadly, that is what A decade ago I know my opinion of this book would have been much different. Now that I'm older and jaded and cranky I just feel like this was a repetitive mess of a wannabe punk scene with no real insights, descriptions or development. Kara is an awkward MC that barely grows through almost 400 pages. As a recovering addict I could relate to the drink, get high, screw around, repeat factor and for that there was some realism however, it does not make for a stimulating read and sadly, that is what makes up the bulk of Kuehnert's Ballads of Suburbia. Kuehnert was repetitive in her descriptions, I cannot tell you how many times she referred to a person having a smoker's cough without actually describing what that is. Is it phlegmy? Raspy? I would have liked to see her expand her use of language and style. It would have made for a much more enjoyable and gripping read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Wardrip

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com Ms. Kuehnert has written another powerful and hard-hitting novel to follow up her stunning debut, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. Kara is friendless when her BFF Stacey has to move to another less expensive suburb of Chicago. So when new girl Maya enters Chemistry class and sits down beside her, she's excited to see a kindred soul. Soon the two take to hanging out after school in Scoville Park. Maya is everything Kara isn't, first and foremost outgoing. Maya ju Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com Ms. Kuehnert has written another powerful and hard-hitting novel to follow up her stunning debut, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. Kara is friendless when her BFF Stacey has to move to another less expensive suburb of Chicago. So when new girl Maya enters Chemistry class and sits down beside her, she's excited to see a kindred soul. Soon the two take to hanging out after school in Scoville Park. Maya is everything Kara isn't, first and foremost outgoing. Maya jumps right in and creates a spot for them with the gang at Scoville. It isn't until Kara becomes associated with fire that she truly feels she's part of the crowd. Kara uses Scoville to help escape life at home. Her parents are constantly at odds and her younger brother, Liam, is as desperate for attention as Kara is. She begins to bring Liam with her to Scoville and he soon becomes another member of the group. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA explores Kara's connections with the others that hang out at Scoville. These kids know how to party, and slowly Kara gets sucked into the world of drugs by those around here. She's attracted to bad boy Adrian and is told that he must really like her because he treats her differently than all the other girls. But she knows she should be with Christian, the good guy. It isn't until Christian turns dark that Kara's world truly blows up. Friendships are tested and emotions flare. Interspersed throughout the novel, Ms. Kuehnert inserts the "ballads" of various characters. Adrian has in his possession a journal that anyone can read, with the condition that you must first write your own story. Kara can never bring herself to write her story, even when tragedy hits than once. It isn't until Kara ventures home after escaping the negativity of Oak Park that life comes full circle for Kara. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a dark, desperate look at teenage life in the suburbs in the early 1990s. Ms. Kuehnert gets right to the heart of the teenage angst and struggles to fit in to any crowd. Though a bleak look, the ending leaves the reader filled with hope at the future Kara is trying to create for herself.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    It's truly amazing that any of us survive our teen years. I really liked Stephanie's first book:I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, so when she came out with this one, I knew I was going to have to read it. I'm really glad I did because she deals with a lot of young adult issues that don't really get talked about, until it's too late: drugs, addiction, overdoses, death, suicide, cutting, pregnancy, abusive/controlling relationships,rumors and backstabbing. These are the dark tales/ballads of what a lot It's truly amazing that any of us survive our teen years. I really liked Stephanie's first book:I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, so when she came out with this one, I knew I was going to have to read it. I'm really glad I did because she deals with a lot of young adult issues that don't really get talked about, until it's too late: drugs, addiction, overdoses, death, suicide, cutting, pregnancy, abusive/controlling relationships,rumors and backstabbing. These are the dark tales/ballads of what a lot of teenagers go through trying to figure out the complexities of themselves, as well as, the complexities of life itself. Stephanie doesn't sugar coat and there are no happy endings, but she expertly lays out these heartbreaking stories to be looked at and examined in such a way, that brought back memories of my own tragic teenagedom and made me feel glad that I survived. I'm looking forward to writing my own personal ballad, so thanks Stephanie for the inspiration! Also, as both books have shown, Stephanie is all about the music: Johnny Cash, PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins, Social Distortion, Screeching Weasel, Rancid, Nine Inch Nails, The Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, Alice In Chains, Rise Against, and The Distillers all make appearances throughout the book and can also be found on her website: www.stephaniekuehnert.com, as part of the awesome 'official' sound track for this well done book that every young adult should read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    BOOK BUTTERFLY

    Ballads of Suburbia is a novel not for the faint of heart. It’s upsetting, haunting but also incredibly beautiful. Before I started this novel, I admit I was a little leery of it. I was afraid I’d begin reading and feel judgmental toward the characters and turned off by the drug use. While this was not an easy novel to dive into and at times really choked up, I never felt like I didn’t want to continue reading. The end, while sad, was also uplifting and inspirational. Any writer who can take a b Ballads of Suburbia is a novel not for the faint of heart. It’s upsetting, haunting but also incredibly beautiful. Before I started this novel, I admit I was a little leery of it. I was afraid I’d begin reading and feel judgmental toward the characters and turned off by the drug use. While this was not an easy novel to dive into and at times really choked up, I never felt like I didn’t want to continue reading. The end, while sad, was also uplifting and inspirational. Any writer who can take a black and white issue and open you up to another way of thinking is someone to really look out for. The best aspect for me was the different “ballads” and how they linked seamlessly together to tell a story not only about a group of teenagers but also for a generation. Kara was at the center of this novel and as her world started crashing down around her, I was more and more drawn into her world. The people in her life were so well drawn that I literally could see them walking right out of the pages and down the halls of my old high school where I grew up. They were of the same generation as me, and the music they listened to really transported me back in time. I may not identify with their experiences, but I can still recognize their journey and empathize with their situations. Stephanie Kuehnert has an amazing voice and talent. I'll definitely be looking forward to her next novel. My hope is that teens who may be going through similar circumstances can find hope and inspiration from Kuehnert's novel. I also want to mention that at the end there are contacts for various outreach groups, something that was so fitting to be included.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Reppe

    I wanted to read this because it's about teenagers in the early 90's in Oak Park, IL, my hometown, where I went to high school in the early 90's so...I thought I would enjoy the references to Oak Park, which I did...and I have to say that was the best thing about the book for me. Kuehnert's protagonist, Kara, is rebellious, delinquent and does drugs: basically she's messed up. She cuts herself— which Kuehnert admits to doing in her school days— and she hangs out in Scoville park, getting high. I I wanted to read this because it's about teenagers in the early 90's in Oak Park, IL, my hometown, where I went to high school in the early 90's so...I thought I would enjoy the references to Oak Park, which I did...and I have to say that was the best thing about the book for me. Kuehnert's protagonist, Kara, is rebellious, delinquent and does drugs: basically she's messed up. She cuts herself— which Kuehnert admits to doing in her school days— and she hangs out in Scoville park, getting high. I did know people who were just like the protagonist kara. And I appreciate that Kuehnert brings the character to a turn-around, coming clean and dealing with her self-abuse in the end. But, the book was disappointing for a number of reasons: one, because it did not have the momentum of her first novel. The characters do heroin, and they fall asleep; then they wake up, do more, and fall asleep again; and then they wake up and guess what they do again? I guess this is what happens when you do heroin—I don't know. But it doesn't make for fun reading. Two, I don't mind reading about sad, heavy, situations and tragic outcomes if it's written in a way that inspires sympathy, but I couldn't sympathize with these characters because most of the narrative reads like a note passed in study hall: It was like, who's spreading rumors about whom, who's "going out" with who, who's mad at who, and then how Kara can't deal with it, so she cuts herself and does harder and harder drugs. "Maya's eyes danced. 'Christian's been pining for you. Apparently he was worried I'd be upset about it, but I think it's perfect. You're my girl best friend; he's my guy best friend. I told him I'd give you his number and that if you hadn't given up on men, maybe you'd call.' 'What? You're trying to set us up?' I sputtered, horrified. So horrified I was blushing. Had she known I once had a crush on him back when I'd visited Scoville with Stacey? 'Christian's a really sweet guy, Kara.' Maya said, growing serious. 'And you deserve a guy like that after the crap Adrian put you through.' "Adrian didn't put me through anything. We had a fling and the fling is over," I sapped defensively. It was easier to pretend I hadn't had any real feelings for him. 'And I'm not interested in getting involved with anyone right now, particularly not your ex.' 'I don't even consider Christian my ex. We're friends. That's all we ever were. And I want him to be happy. You guys would make each other happy." (Just in case you didn't get that, Christian used to like Maya, but Maya couldn't deal with a relationship, so now they're just friends, and Christian likes Kara now. Kara used to go out with Adrian, but he totally dissed her, so Maya wants to set her up with Christian. And just to fill you in, Kara and Christian do start going together, but Kara still likes Adrian, but she also likes Christian. This is too much for her, so she does drugs). Three, it doesn't give a well-rounded (fair/truthful) glimpse of Oak Park in that time period. All of the characters are the same. They're punks, all into the same scene. They come from the same upper-middle class social-economic background, are mad at life, dye their hair, get high, get drunk, throw up and act like punks (except for the parents who were minor, minor characters) and it got really repetitive. OK, the book is marketed as a "punk ballad," but it opens with a topographical view of Oak Park, and it's based on Kuehner's high school experience—wasn't there more to it than that? Only one scene takes place in the actual high school, in the locker room before the P.E. swimming class. (I got a chuckle recalling the "standard mauve swimming getup" that OPRF HS used to issue out). I was expecting more of a coming-of-age something or other. I don't know—I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had been part of the druggie crowd that hung out at Scoville Park. I would have liked to see more of Oak Park represented. I like Kuehnert's writing, sometimes. Some would say there were too many characters in this book, and they would be right. Some would criticize that it's written like a YA novel but the content is way too mature for young adults (teenagers) and they would be right, too. It's an MTV book so take it for what you will. Or don't take it at all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura (Booksforbreakfast)

    I just finished this book about twenty minutes ago and absolutely needed to write a review before I went to bed! After I finished this one, I just sat there staring off into space and just digesting what went on through the novel. It was truly wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, I felt for everyone. Stephanie Kuehnert has such a distinct writing style that makes each of her characters, no matter how minuscule their parts may seem, have such a personality. I recommend this book to anyone I just finished this book about twenty minutes ago and absolutely needed to write a review before I went to bed! After I finished this one, I just sat there staring off into space and just digesting what went on through the novel. It was truly wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, I felt for everyone. Stephanie Kuehnert has such a distinct writing style that makes each of her characters, no matter how minuscule their parts may seem, have such a personality. I recommend this book to anyone, whether you're struggling with an addiction yourself or you know of someone who is, this is the read for you. It took me back to the many times I had to deal with my sister and her various issues and it makes my heart a little softer. Some of the things these poor kids went through is just mind boggling. Please read this one - I know you'll be amazed and saddened at the same time - I know I was. I love the cover too, even though there's a picture of a happy duck on it there's still such loneliness and solitude in it and I felt like the cover could depict Kara's feelings through the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    Wow. This book is one of the best and darkest realistic YA books I've ever read. Real, raw, and beautiful. Wow. This book is one of the best and darkest realistic YA books I've ever read. Real, raw, and beautiful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert came in the mail for me one day, completely unexpected. It was signed and shipped from Stephanie herself and I have no idea why. I searched through my emails, couldn't find any mention of the book, but it had been on my watch/tbr pile for a while, and it was signed, so I was happy and added it to the pile, waiting to be read. It waited for a couple of months before I finally picked it Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert came in the mail for me one day, completely unexpected. It was signed and shipped from Stephanie herself and I have no idea why. I searched through my emails, couldn't find any mention of the book, but it had been on my watch/tbr pile for a while, and it was signed, so I was happy and added it to the pile, waiting to be read. It waited for a couple of months before I finally picked it up. I wish I had read it immediately. This is one of those books that forces a person to redefine and reevaluate the way they view their world. At least, that's what it did to me. I've been waiting a while now to write this review because there is so much to be said about this book, and I don't feel at all qualified to say it. It's a story about Kara, a teenage girl who doesn't really seem to fit in anywhere, doesn't make friends easily and doesn't deal with internal pain very well. When her best (and only friend) moves away, she has no one left but her younger brother Liam who doesn't really trust her, because they used to be close, and then she ditched him for the best friend. But they start to get closer, and then Kara meets Maya. She's confident, vibrant and flamboyant, pretty much everything Kara is not. They bond quickly and Maya takes Kara with her to Scoville Park, where she is introduced to an entirely new world and where she feels, for the first time in forever, that she has friends, that she fits in, and here, she can be cool. But the crowd that hangs out at Scoville Park is not exactly the crowd that mommies and daddies want their kiddies hanging out with. They drink, smoke, do drugs-some 'basic' high school fair (pot) and some much, much harder (heroin and acid) and get into all kinds of trouble. But Kara, who has been secretly cutting for years to feel in control of her life finally feels like she's found a place to belong. This leads me to the only thing about this book that I can find fault with. Every single teenage character in this book (and I do mean every single one) that gets more than two sentences of face time spends the entire novel drunk/stoned/high/strung out/tripping/hungover or some combination of them all. I know that there are some teenagers who did go through high school like that. And, it makes sense that if you are living like that, the people you hang out with are likely to be living like that too. I get it. Really, I do. But it is something so completely foreign to me, something that is as completely and totally different from my own high school (and life) experiences as you can possibly get, that I had a hard time with that. It just felt a little over the top, a little extreme. But then again, this is coming from the girl who has never even tasted alcohol, has never picked up a cigarette, never even been tempted to try drugs. None of these are things that appeal to me. Partly because I'm supremely fond of my brain, and very aware that any and all drug use diminishes brain capacity, and also because I don't like the idea of giving up that much control to a substance. I freely admit, I need more control over my life than that. So, although I struggled with the level of constant drug abuse, it is also such an integral part of the novel, and given what these characters experienced is so completely different from what I, or anyone I know, went through at that age, it really forced me to reexamine the way I view the world and the people in it. These characters are filled with so much pain. I wasn't always a happy person in high school, in fact the emotion I was most familiar with for most of my growing up years is anger, but I've never met a cast of characters with so much emotional turmoil before and the pain practically bleeds from the pages. But, surprisingly, somehow, there is a lot of love included in that pain. This group of friends- flawed, suffering, somewhat stupid- is there for each other, and you know that at their core, they would go through Hell to protect each other. Which is why it's all the more heartbreaking when things start to break them apart, when they start to splinter. I read this book through a perpetual ache in my chest, wanting them to find help, wanting them to understand that there is hope in the world, a life better than drinking and drugs can offer you. Every time Kara cut herself because she couldn't handles the pressure, my heart bled along with her arms. I wanted them to want something better for themselves, to understand that each of them deserved better than what they were giving themselves. My absolute favorite part of this book was the way Stephanie told the story. It begins with the epilogue. Kara has been gone for four years now, having left the area after a night in Scoville with her 'boyfriend' Aidan leaves her almost dead in the park from a heroin overdose. She decides it is finally time to tell her story, and so begins her Ballad. The story is told mostly by Kara, but her narrative is broken up by the Ballads, or stories of the other characters. They take a few pages to express their hurts, their pain, their suffering. They write about the life experiences that made them who they are, that brought them to their present state. And although the story on its own, Kara's story is powerful in and of itself, I believe that the heart of the story would be missing without these added narratives. There is something about hearing about these disappointments straight from the characters who experiences them that gives the story a raw honesty that really reached into me. They each titled their own story, and these short titles really capture the tone of the story, and the characters themselves. And, as if that weren't enough, Stephanie has includes a single lyric with each ballad, each new section, a lyric that captures and hints at the tone each new section, each ballad will take us through. And the lyrics are perfect, almost as if the songs themselves were written for each of these characters. I can't express enough how much this book moved me. These characters are so incredibly real to me, so rich and raw, their stories so moving, that I don't know how you can read this book and not be touched. I don't know how you can spend time with these people and not be left with an ache in your chest because you know there are people like them in real life, suffering, waiting, heading toward death or a life full of nothing. I ache for them. Still. It's been over a month since I read this book and I still find my heart aching every time I think about this book, every time I glance at my bookshelf and see the spine. This is an important book, and it doesn't get nearly the attention and love that it deserves. People, this book needs to be read. So what are you waiting for? Go do it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    Ballads of Suburbia is about Kara, who returns to Oak Park after a heroin overdose four years prior. She tells the story, or 'ballad' of her high school years (up to junior year) where she was brought into the the life of drugs, booze, and music while her family fell apart and her old life slipped away. She and her brother, Liam, find themselves hanging out at Scoville Park making new friends and trying new things. Kara writes about her experiences with the bad boy she fell in love with, a boy w Ballads of Suburbia is about Kara, who returns to Oak Park after a heroin overdose four years prior. She tells the story, or 'ballad' of her high school years (up to junior year) where she was brought into the the life of drugs, booze, and music while her family fell apart and her old life slipped away. She and her brother, Liam, find themselves hanging out at Scoville Park making new friends and trying new things. Kara writes about her experiences with the bad boy she fell in love with, a boy who hurt her in more ways than once, her crazy impulsive new friend Maya, and of course, her relationship with her family. Through it all, the music is always present, and so are the ballads of various characters integrated beautifully into such a raw book. Kara's gut-wrenching, honest narration will definitely invoke emotions in every reader. I really loved this book, and for many reasons. Usually I comment on things like character and plot first, but I'm going to jump right in and comment about the writing. Stephanie Kuehnert's sophomore book (first book is I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone) is so beautifully written in such a dramatic manner than you can't help but be sucked in into Kara's life no matter how gruesome (kinda exaggerating) it is. "Ballads", which are basically short stories and confessions relating personally to other characters are integrated so well that it contributes immensely to the novel and to character development. You see the motives behind characters that you can't help but judge. For example, here is a tiny example: He rolled his eyes and took me straight to the shrink, who recommended more meds, family therapy, institutionalization if need be. But I do what I want. The one good thing about coming from no one is there's no one to answer to. The writing is so very impressive and the 'harsh realities' are not sugar-coated, glorified, or handled in a bad way. Kuehnert turned the plot which is dark in itself, into a story that can even be interpreted as hopeful. The (constant) mentions of drugs and alcohol may be a turn-off for some readers, jsyk. Basically, the in-your-face prose that doesn't hide anything makes you do a double take on lives in the suburbia. Now, the characters. I think I adored Liam the most, for the way he looked up to his big sister but ended up seemingly betrayed by everyone around him. He loses the 'puppy dog' effect though, yet it seems at time he is still soft and just lost. I thought the character of Kara's best friend, Maya, was well written as well. The character development is there, and these wonderful, flawed characters suck you into the story and prevents you from putting the book down. I was never a big fan of Adrian (maybe it's the hair) probably because of his actions, or maybe just his influence over Kara who was just trying to escape her home and find herself. However, Kara is so well developed through her narration and through the story that I can understand and even accept her motives and her (however much I didn't support) admiration of Adrian. Adrian isn't the only boy in her life though, because there's Christian, the seemingly kind hearted boy who is just caught up in the 'life', but of course, there is more to it than that. Every character has their own flaws, and are extremely three-dimensional and well written. I can't say enough about it. The plot in itself was interesting enough, but it may be the plot that makes readers dislike the book. It deals with a lot of those stuff that are frowned upon in society like drinking and drugs (lots, btw), and I find some people just dislike books like that in general. Personally, I have never done drugs or illegal things like that, so I probably can't relate personally to the issues shown in the book. I can, however, accept it as part of the plot and read about it without prejudice, while enjoying the book. The 'scrapbooking' aspect, and the screen writing thing that Kara has going on is unique, and so is the "Ballads of Suburbia" notebook that defined and confessed the heartbreaking realities and moments that changed young, innocent lives. In fact, I think the Ballads were one of my favourite parts. Lastly, just a heads up, this is more of a "mature" book, and includes things like: drinking, drugs of all kinds, self-mutilation, and abuse. I wouldn't recommend teens under 14-ish to read this book. 9.3/10 - because I basically loved the book. The writing, although the plot dealt with mature themes, was smooth and flowing, with just the right amount of edginess and power. The characters, although they won't necessarily be admired, were very well written and well developed (which is important!). If you want to enter the mind of a girl trying to find her way, fit in, and deal with life, yet not necessarily in the conventional way, try this book. I acknowledge this review isn't very good but I just highly highly recommend this. The dark, desperate writing prevents sugar coating dealing with the problems we have in our society today, and the insight to the mind of a seventeen year old girl is no doubtedly powerful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    C.J. Nelson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Honestly, I couldn’t finish this book. All the characters were so much the same in characterization and dialogue that it was hard to differentiate who was who. The only character I cared about was Liam because he reminded me of one of my cousins. I’m kinda disappointed. I love I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, and I was expecting to love this one too, but I didn’t. Oh, well. I’ve read worse.

  17. 5 out of 5

    YA Reads Book Reviews

    The blurb featured above doesn’t even come close to doing Ballads of Suburbia justice. This is not your regular dose of girl-meets-bad boy-but-finds-her-way-back-to-the-right-side-of-the-tracks kind of YA fiction. There is nothing censored, dusted over, or left out of this novel. I’m not even really sure you could classify this one as YA. Having said that, I think its something all angsty teens should read, and not because it has a ‘drugs are bad’ message, although it does, in a round about kind The blurb featured above doesn’t even come close to doing Ballads of Suburbia justice. This is not your regular dose of girl-meets-bad boy-but-finds-her-way-back-to-the-right-side-of-the-tracks kind of YA fiction. There is nothing censored, dusted over, or left out of this novel. I’m not even really sure you could classify this one as YA. Having said that, I think its something all angsty teens should read, and not because it has a ‘drugs are bad’ message, although it does, in a round about kind of way. Mostly, because it’s so real and I reckon there is a whole bunch of teens wandering around suburbs just like Oak Park, feeling just like Kara does, thinking there’s no escape. Ballads is a tale about choices and how those choices can affect us for the rest of our days. Kara’s decent into darkness essentially starts when her parents split up. They moved to the suburbs so they could live out their happy all-American fantasy of being a perfect family, only it didn’t quite work out that way. Not even close. Kara is hurting and she’s looking for someone, something to make it all stop. Her quest takes her to fairly innocent places at first. Alcohol, cigarettes, a bit of pot. And it works, for a while, but soon enough, the pain starts to push through the mask and she knows she’s going to need something new. Enter Adrian. Who needs drugs when you’ve got Adrian? He’s sexy, badass, and he likes Kara. No one has ever liked her before, not in that way. Who wouldn’t be pulled in by his trance? Before long, though, it becomes obvious that Adrian is bad news. He’s into hard drugs and he’s unapologetic about it. Soon the high of being around him isn’t enough either, and Kara jumps on the junkie wagon. What I loved about Ballads is that the narrative does not, in any way, lay blame on Adrian for Kara’s drug use. Although she goes through some seriously messed stuff, Kara makes a choice, a whole bunch of them actually, and the narrative recognises that the reason Kara becomes addicted to heroine is because she allowed herself to. She didn’t need Adrian’s influence – hell some could argue that he didn’t ever actually influence her to use, but he certainly never tried to stop her – her pain and despair was so great that if she hadn’t gotten it from Adrian, I’m certain she would have found it elsewhere. Kara’s problems essentially started at home, though I don’t entirely believe its fair to blame her problems on her parents, either. For me, it seemed that Kara is the kind of girl that was always going to at least dabble in illicit substances. Would she have taken it to such extremes if her family life had been more stable? Who knows. It’s impossible to say, but there are plenty of kids from well adjusted families that end up as heroine junkies. For some, I think it comes from within. Ballads acknowledges this and lays it all out on the table, judgment free. I bet that every single person will take something different from this novel, and that’s why I think everyone should read it. This one comes with one hell of a warning folks. If you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy, don’t read this book. If you’re looking for a teen romance that takes a walk on the wild side, don’t read this book. If you’re looking for something that ends up all good and well in the end, then don’t read this book. If what you’re looking for is a real life read that will break your heart, fill your eyes with tears, and force you to face the hard questions head on, then this is absolutely, most definitely the book for you. If you’re looking for a book with complex and deep characters, then this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you thinking long after you finish the last word, then Ballads of Suburbia is a must-read for you. Kara’s tale is a raw, hard-hitting lesson on just how much guts it takes to fight your way from the dark side into the light. Stephanie Kuehnert’s effortless prose and outstanding imagery will leave you standing front and center, right in the middle of all Kara’s chaos. Be prepared to have your beating heart ripped right out of your chest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Back when I was reading only YA books, I came upon this book while I was browsing the shelves at Indigo in Downtown Toronto between some of my classes. There was something about this book that caught my attention. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the title or the back blurb, but I knew I just had to read this book. I read and loved it then. And now, in the wake of the new boom of New Adult books, I remembered this special gem that caught my eye a long time ago. So I went back to revisit Back when I was reading only YA books, I came upon this book while I was browsing the shelves at Indigo in Downtown Toronto between some of my classes. There was something about this book that caught my attention. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the title or the back blurb, but I knew I just had to read this book. I read and loved it then. And now, in the wake of the new boom of New Adult books, I remembered this special gem that caught my eye a long time ago. So I went back to revisit it for a reread and it’s just as good as I remembered. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a teen novel that deals with a lot of bad things. You’ve got suicide, depression, drug abuse, overdose, unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, abuse, grief and the works. That being said, it pushes the maturity level so that it feels more like a New Adult book than a simple YA novel. Of course, when it came out, NA wasn’t a thing yet but I thought I’d bring this back on the radar and hopefully get readers interested in this book because it is a great one. This book follows Kara who in her junior year of high school had a heroin overdose that nearly killed her. She left the school and moved to bigger and better things, but four years later, she returns to Scoville Park where her very dark past catches up with her. When she returns, she meets up with her old friends – and I use this term loosely – and revisits her old life. Drama unlike anything you’ve ever seen occurs and it’s both gripping and heartbreaking to watch. Not only do you find out what happened to her friends after the years she left, but you also get glimpses of what they are going thoroughly presently and it’s not always good. What’s unique about this book is the way it’s written. Kuehnert is heavily influenced by music and you can see that throughout the pages. But perhaps the best – and the most heartbreaking – thing about this book are the Ballads that each character writes. They’re almost like short tell-alls that reveal the innermost thoughts and secrets of each character. God, they were so consuming and reading some of them simply crushed my heart. The back story of each character was so well-done and intricate that reading their ballads seem to display them in their most raw state and seeing their internal struggles with themselves was sometimes hard to read, but very successful in creating that emotional bond between the reader and the characters. I loved this book so much and I’m hoping that this will convince readers to pick up this older book and give it to try. It’s emotional and angsty with a few twists along the way. And there’s a hero named Adrian whom I both loved and hated. Nevertheless, I couldn’t find myself putting this book down.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leslie (That Chick That Reads)

    So usually I get new books according to what other bloggers read and liked. Stephanie’s book Ballads of Suburbia was everywhere in the bloggerverse so I decided to take a look at it. Well this book is mainly told in Kara’s point of view. Okie before I even get started with that, let me talk about how the book is organized (which I thought was extremely bad ass). Okie so this book is organized like a song, each different era was labeled as a Verse or Chorus, which I’m guessing is to give the illu So usually I get new books according to what other bloggers read and liked. Stephanie’s book Ballads of Suburbia was everywhere in the bloggerverse so I decided to take a look at it. Well this book is mainly told in Kara’s point of view. Okie before I even get started with that, let me talk about how the book is organized (which I thought was extremely bad ass). Okie so this book is organized like a song, each different era was labeled as a Verse or Chorus, which I’m guessing is to give the illustration of it being Kara’s song because a ballad is a song telling a story. Anyway, after every Verse or Chorus, the chapters start over in numbering which was just totally awesome. Anyway continuing on… it’s told from Kara’s point of view, with occasional shifts in point of view from her friends in a ballad. Occasionally we see a song lyric from the oh so awesome Johnny Cash! Gah! He’s one of my favorite artist evar! She also had stuff from Nirvana and about Kurt Cobain. The voices she gave her characters were just abs amazing. I really felt like I could connect which each and every individual. Like at the beginning I went into the book hating Adrian but as it went on, my view kind of shifted. The ballads gave the characters a voice that I could easily identify with. We’ve all had to deal with a backstabbing friend or maybe a sibling rivalry. To be perfectly honest, there were two instances that hit very close to home. One was when Kara’s brother talked about her, and how he viewed her as a hero. As I read that part all I could think about was my own siblings and how big of an impact I might have on them and I might not even really see it or notice it. Okie the other one was about divorce, and I’m going to share a paragraph from the novel. “There are so many ballads about divorce. Achy-breaky country songs about the cheaters. Mournful pop songs about the heartbroken. Then there’s the rare punk song that tells it from the view of the kids. Feelings aren’t laid bare in those particular ballads. There’s no crying and moaning. Divorce is shrugged off like it’s no big deal, just a messy par of so many kids’ life stories” page 100. It’s so true though. You rarely hear a good song talking about it from the view of the kids. As soon as I read that I immediately thought of Blink 182’s Stay together for the kids. My friends and just people who know me know that I listen to songs based on what they say. What kind of story is told within the few verses and lines. So as soon as I finished this novel it was as if I’ve read a good lyrical song. It told a good and meaningful story that I will continue to think about for as long as I breathe. Great writing, amazing storyline, unforgettable characters, this novel is definitely a good one. It deserves the 5 out of 5 paws.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    OK, I know what you're thinking...a book about a girl who came of age in '90s Chicago suburbia and went to school to become a screenwriter. Do I just love this book because I can relate? Actually, I expected to hate this book. I'm very protective of my childhood/teen memories, and it also just seemed all too edgy, romanticized, and unrealistic in all the descriptions I read of parties, drugs, and punk rock. Little did I expect to become so absorbed that I'd read it almost all in a couple of sitti OK, I know what you're thinking...a book about a girl who came of age in '90s Chicago suburbia and went to school to become a screenwriter. Do I just love this book because I can relate? Actually, I expected to hate this book. I'm very protective of my childhood/teen memories, and it also just seemed all too edgy, romanticized, and unrealistic in all the descriptions I read of parties, drugs, and punk rock. Little did I expect to become so absorbed that I'd read it almost all in a couple of sittings, re-living old memories and places so vividly. Kuehnert writes so honestly and painfully about universal teen feelings and issues, like lack of belonging, loneliness, friendships drifting apart, and even things like deep boredom that other writers would just gloss over. I think it was a scene early on when Kara and her brother Liam were watching Nirvana on MTV in their suburban living room, lamenting their lack of friends, social life, and rock star lifestyle, that I decided, hey, I really like this book. I connected almost immediately with all the characters and their situations, from girls making fun of Kara because she didn't wear the right Keds or Gap clothing to her bonding with her new best friend Maya over bands they liked and punk fashion choices (like the memorable Manic Panic hair dye). I kept expecting to lose that connection when the book veered off into territory that included drugs and parties, but it never did. Drugs were used as a natural extension of the universal feelings the characters all felt, like numbness or alienation, and the drug use never felt glamorized or inauthentic in any way. All of the characters' decisions and ballads rang true for me in this book, which is why I became so absorbed in it and didn't want it to end. (Inclusion of memorable landmarks in my own coming of age like the old-school Fireside Bowl and some of the diners mentioned didn't hurt). I have to give her kudos as well for having a fairly large cast of characters (about nine kids who partied together) and really developing them all to a certain extent. I really appreciated that Kuehnert wrote something I could relate to in every character, and I imagine that's how she hung in there with them even though she's stated in interviews the experiences were removed from her own life. I may have never used to drugs to escape like the characters in that book during the time period, but I used writing and music in much the same way and if I ran with a different crowd I very well could have---I knew there were drug problems in our area high schools as well. In the past I have written about '90s Chicago suburbia, but never as well as Kuehnert--she is something to aspire to, although she actually inspires me to re-live those memories and want to write about them again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I was going to wait to write this review until tomorrow when I woke up, but I rolled around in bed for half-an-hour, unable to sleep, still thinking about it. I don’t know how to describe Ballads of Suburbia to those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I’ll do my best. Ballads is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told through creative, lyrical prose. The characters are so intense, so realistic, that they almost jump off the pages. The events that unfold throughout the book are challenging and hear I was going to wait to write this review until tomorrow when I woke up, but I rolled around in bed for half-an-hour, unable to sleep, still thinking about it. I don’t know how to describe Ballads of Suburbia to those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I’ll do my best. Ballads is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told through creative, lyrical prose. The characters are so intense, so realistic, that they almost jump off the pages. The events that unfold throughout the book are challenging and heartrendingly tragic—but the truth is—they do exist in the world. There were points in Ballads where I had to set the book down for a moment--when a character experienced something that dredged up memories of my own high school life. There were a few times where I felt that I could identify exactly with how a character was feeling, and other times, my heart ached for a character that was experiencing something no on should ever have to go through. You just don’t understand. I’ve heard that phrase a lot in my life, and used it probably more than I’ve heard it. If nothing else, Ballads of Suburbia left me with the overwhelming impression that there ARE people out there who do understand or, if they don’t, are willing to listen. I went through a lot of high school thinking the opposite, and I’ve known many teenagers who’ve felt the same way in some point in their life. While I learned that lesson the long and hard way, it was nice to see it reaffirmed in print. I’ve had friends who went through some of the same problems addressed in Ballads, and probably could’ve learned a thing or two from reading the book. I was so touched, so completely moved by the book that I got out of bed to review it. I couldn’t fall asleep without writing about my feelings on Ballads. That in itself should tell you how much I loved this book. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy a new copy, because I plan on passing this one around to all of my friends the second I get back to college. If I had the power to do so, I would make this required reading for every teenager, if for nothing else than it so wonderfully captures the emotions and experiences of growing up. Why did I choose Ballads of Suburbia for Best Book of 2009? Well, as much as I loved all the other books on my Top 10 list, I believe that Ballads affected me the deepest and will stay with me the longest. It was able to move me in a way no book has done for a long time, and it made me think in ways I hadn’t before. Kudos to author Stephanie Kuehnert for writing such an engrossing, wonderful book! Read it guys. You won’t regret it!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Greta is Erikasbuddy

    This book brought back so many fabulous memories of the 90s. Ballads of Suburbia is centered around a teenage girl named Kara. Her family is going to pot (didn't everyone start to get divorces back then?), her bestie is moving away, her brother is well... a little brother (for now), and she is just discovering music. Kara then discovers Skoville through a new friend she met at school. At Scoville (a park that the teens have taken over) she meets a whole cast of characters. One of them is Adrain wh This book brought back so many fabulous memories of the 90s. Ballads of Suburbia is centered around a teenage girl named Kara. Her family is going to pot (didn't everyone start to get divorces back then?), her bestie is moving away, her brother is well... a little brother (for now), and she is just discovering music. Kara then discovers Skoville through a new friend she met at school. At Scoville (a park that the teens have taken over) she meets a whole cast of characters. One of them is Adrain who carries a notebook around called "The Stories of Suburbia." In the notebook the kids write down the event in their life that made them who they are today. The life event that changed them. Adrain explains this to Kara and she relates them to a band's ballad. That song on the cd that makes you stop and listen. That one secret the lead singer is willing to tell. Mingled in the book (which I thought this was mondo cool) are some of the characters' ballads. Each one is only a couple pages long but it gives you more of an insight of what that person is really like. A very cool thing that I thought was done was the book was done in parts. But not like you think. Not Part 1 Part 2 Part 3. NOES! The author really wowwed me with this. It starts out with Verse, Chorus, Verse, Guitar Solo. Just like a real song. Also, every ballad or PART of the book starts with a set of song lyrics. I knew I would adore this book when I saw that the first page (which is actually the first part of the Epilogue) was introduced with a My So Called Life quote. It was love at first sight ;) Now, I should probably warn you that this book has a ton of drug usage in it. But that's what's so awesome about it. That was the 90s. Well, that was my 90s. You get to watch someone who is innocent fall into the wrong crowd.... but maybe that crowd is just right for her... but how can drugs be right? Well, you'll see ;) I must give the writer a big pat on the back. at the end of the book she includes all the Hotline Phone numbers to call if you know anyone like any of the characters in the book that need help. That truely brought a tear to my eye. (Oh shush-up lolz) Also, there is a very interesting Q and A with the author in the very BACK BACK of the book that you should check out. I really can't wait to read more from her. And just because I loved this book so so so so much :) and I love YOUTUBE lolz... here's what my Ballad would be ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrxRf3... Twist Inside by Everclear I will warn you guys... this book is extremely powerful... but if you lived through the 90s.... its soooo worth it ;) LOVED IT!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Malissa

    I'm going to pilfer my own review of this book off of Amazon (since they think they own it now) because I wrote it just after finishing this book and, well, I already wrote it. I said: "I debated whether to give this book a 4 or 5 as Amazon doesn't allow in-betweens, but in the end I decided that a book that absorbs you as much as this one and leaves you as spent (but in a good way) deserves a 5. I read Kuehnert's first book "I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone" immediately before this one and, unlike so I'm going to pilfer my own review of this book off of Amazon (since they think they own it now) because I wrote it just after finishing this book and, well, I already wrote it. I said: "I debated whether to give this book a 4 or 5 as Amazon doesn't allow in-betweens, but in the end I decided that a book that absorbs you as much as this one and leaves you as spent (but in a good way) deserves a 5. I read Kuehnert's first book "I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone" immediately before this one and, unlike some of the previous reviewers, was disappointed. So I went into this book without expectations and was absolutely blown away. Kuehnert's style and characterization has matured so much since her first novel. She weaves a complex story effortlessly and powerfully. Her characters are believable, well developed and extremely sympathetic. I used up several tissues finishing this book. The story itself is bold, gripping, and real in so many ways. Yes, it's about teen addiction on the surface, but it's also about a lot more. It's about lives that are as interwoven as the story itself and about characters who are equally as complex. There are no real "bad guys" or "good guys" just real kids who make real choices both good and bad. I also love the language Kuehnert uses and the blunt, honest, without being gratuitous way the book discusses issues like sex and drug use (issues that some writers shy away from for fear of censorship). One passage that I really took note of comes after the main character loses her virginity after a bad family Thanksgiving experience: "I hadn't planned for it to be that way. I mean, virginity-losing is a pretty memorable thing and I didn't particularly want to remember it every year when I sat down with the family to celebrate genocide over turkey and mashed potatoes." All in all, this book is a winner. Kuehnert has really come into her own." Basically, this book is fabulous and there's a reason that 100% of the Amazon user ratings are 5s and the majority of the Goodreads ratings are.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steph Su

    BALLADS OF SUBURBIA left me reeling, thinking hard for hours afterwards. I share zero experience with Kara, and yet Stephanie Kuehnert masterfully pulls us into this dangerous, deceptive, yet enticing world of drugs. Only a talented writer can pull you into a world you know nothing about and make you feel as if you simultaneously understand and yet can never understand that world. I know that I won’t be able to find the words significant to describe this novel, because what it covers is beyond my BALLADS OF SUBURBIA left me reeling, thinking hard for hours afterwards. I share zero experience with Kara, and yet Stephanie Kuehnert masterfully pulls us into this dangerous, deceptive, yet enticing world of drugs. Only a talented writer can pull you into a world you know nothing about and make you feel as if you simultaneously understand and yet can never understand that world. I know that I won’t be able to find the words significant to describe this novel, because what it covers is beyond my words. From family and sibling relationships to the ebb and flow of friendships and loves being made and broken, this book follows Kara through her high school years in the untalked about part of the suburbs. All of the characters seem to jump out of the page and walk around you like they are real, problems and all. Nothing is black-and-white: the characters have different and sometimes troubling attitudes, but it’s their (or, rather, Stephanie’s) ability to convince us of their justification for their beliefs that is truly great. Overall, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a remarkable achievement that hits you right where it counts (your heart) and lingers where it matters (the brain). I’m truly looking forward to seeing what Stephanie Kuehnert will do next.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sab H. (YA Bliss)

    This is hardcore. It tried to suck life out of me. Read it if you dare. This is the dark reality every teenage kid fears or faces. We all know drugs, but we see it as the enemy. It's hard to see it from the eyes of an insider. I'm glad this book is out there for teens to read, but be warned its not pretty or pink. Specially if you have had experiences with this. With that said... dude! this woman is a genius! OMG! What an amazing book. The 'ballad' concept is mind-blowing. What a great theory. I This is hardcore. It tried to suck life out of me. Read it if you dare. This is the dark reality every teenage kid fears or faces. We all know drugs, but we see it as the enemy. It's hard to see it from the eyes of an insider. I'm glad this book is out there for teens to read, but be warned its not pretty or pink. Specially if you have had experiences with this. With that said... dude! this woman is a genius! OMG! What an amazing book. The 'ballad' concept is mind-blowing. What a great theory. I believe it has changed the way I see the world. The way she writes it, as a song, is brilliant. The whole book, to me, is a work of art. Powerful is an understatement. It goes beyond limits and plays with your view of the world. I liked the cover, definitely fitting. Even if the book is fiction, the characters are real people, who probably Stephanie never met, but I bet each of those stories are out there, exactly like she wrote it. And the writing and plot are the way they should be, as if Kara wrote it. This is one of those books that leaves a mark so I do recommend reading it, specially if you love music and books as much as I do.

  26. 5 out of 5

    hollyishere

    Generally, there are two main stereotypes that seem to cause havoc in any teen drama. The rockers who delve into drugs or the cheer squad who thrive on cruelty, well Ballads of Suburbia realistically looks into the lives of the former with Kara as our tour guide. I can safely say, I've never read a book like this before but I guess it would fit in the same vein as Go Ask Alice or an Ellen Hopkins novel for all the eye-opening drug and alcohol abuse among other things and I'm sure anyone with divo Generally, there are two main stereotypes that seem to cause havoc in any teen drama. The rockers who delve into drugs or the cheer squad who thrive on cruelty, well Ballads of Suburbia realistically looks into the lives of the former with Kara as our tour guide. I can safely say, I've never read a book like this before but I guess it would fit in the same vein as Go Ask Alice or an Ellen Hopkins novel for all the eye-opening drug and alcohol abuse among other things and I'm sure anyone with divorced parents or lack of friends will find this novel completely confronting. At the core, we really just have a group of broken kids who need a safe place to come home to and a little love and support from their family and friends. You will grow attached to these character and it will make you think twice about the next homeless person you see on your travels. Christian managed to be an especially memorable character for me as I fell hook, line and sinker as the twist unravelled that the perfectly brilliant boyfriend may not be all that he seems.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    This book is sad, gut wrenching and utterly devastating. How the hell am i going to get rid of this apathy I'm feeling right now? Before I started reading it I read the reviews, so I can't say I wasn't warned. I just thought that since I was prepared it wouldn't affect me. Stephanie Kuehnert has a gift. A gift of creating characters, plots and places in a very realistic way. I was drawn in from the very beginning and was completely convinced that what I was reading was real and not fiction. This book is sad, gut wrenching and utterly devastating. How the hell am i going to get rid of this apathy I'm feeling right now? Before I started reading it I read the reviews, so I can't say I wasn't warned. I just thought that since I was prepared it wouldn't affect me. Stephanie Kuehnert has a gift. A gift of creating characters, plots and places in a very realistic way. I was drawn in from the very beginning and was completely convinced that what I was reading was real and not fiction.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I tried really hard but I ended up 'eh' about this book. It sounds like it is right up my alley with angst-ridden dribble but I guess it wasn't There were quite literally, WAY too many characters to keep them all straight and made it really hard to feel like there was any real connection between any of them. It make it difficult to get into the characters at all. I tried really hard but I ended up 'eh' about this book. It sounds like it is right up my alley with angst-ridden dribble but I guess it wasn't There were quite literally, WAY too many characters to keep them all straight and made it really hard to feel like there was any real connection between any of them. It make it difficult to get into the characters at all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brenna

    I only got through the first few pages and then just skimmed the rest to see if I'd be interested in continuing. Turns out this is the type of novel I would have been more interested in junior high rather than as an adult. I guess I was expecting something more detailed or relatable and instead it just seemed to be lacking. I only got through the first few pages and then just skimmed the rest to see if I'd be interested in continuing. Turns out this is the type of novel I would have been more interested in junior high rather than as an adult. I guess I was expecting something more detailed or relatable and instead it just seemed to be lacking.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashtyn Granger

    It's pretty good the end of the book is where everything really gets intense, after reading this book it really sat with me. The unexpected turns where you think someone is the good guy, but it's just the opposite. In my opinion yes some of the characters are cliche, but she makes up for it with the incredible story line. Yes like some of the other reviews said, this book is definitely not for everyone, but it was just perfect for me and I couldn't put it down. One of the best parts of the book It's pretty good the end of the book is where everything really gets intense, after reading this book it really sat with me. The unexpected turns where you think someone is the good guy, but it's just the opposite. In my opinion yes some of the characters are cliche, but she makes up for it with the incredible story line. Yes like some of the other reviews said, this book is definitely not for everyone, but it was just perfect for me and I couldn't put it down. One of the best parts of the book is when you get to read the 'ballad' of a character, or their story from their own point of view. I would recommend this to someone who likes realistic fiction but isn't afraid of cruel topics such as drug addiction and alcohol and likes books that are about music and have small music elements to them.

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