Monday, December 2, 2013

Arianne's Review: Rockoholic by C.J. Skuse

Title: Rockoholic by CJ Skuse
Release date: November 1st 2012 by Scholastic (first published March 1st 2011)
Source: Library
Format: Paperback (358 pages)
Age group: Young adult
Genre: Contemporary/humour
Reviewer: Arianne
Grade rate: B
She's got it bad, and he ain't good -- he's in her garage?"I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me..." Gonna have to face it: Jody's addicted to Jackson Gatlin, frontman of The Regulators, and after her best bud Mac scores tickets, she's front and center at his sold-out concert. But when she gets mashed in the moshpit and bodysurfs backstage, she's got more than a mild concussion to deal with. By the next morning, the strung-out rock star is coming down in her garage. Jody -- oops -- kind of kidnapped him. By accident. With a Curly Wurly candy bar. And now he doesn't want to leave. It's a rock-star abduction worthy of an MTV reality series...but who got punk'd?
Jody’s grandfather just passed away and her parents are getting a divorce. She feels totally alone. Nobody understands – except for her favourite band, The Regulators. Their music speaks to her. Their lead singer, Jackson Gatlin, speaks to her. Well, in her dreams.
It only takes a split second – and a chocolate bar – for those dreams to become a reality. Jody's obsession with the knockout frontman of The Regulators reaches new heights when she finds herself inadvertently kidnapping her idol and learning a few things about herself along the way.
Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way first. The characters in this book are not easy to like. Jody’s immature and Jackson is just plain disgusting. Skuse relies on the ‘pitch perfect sister makes other sister feel inadequate’ stereotype to bulk up the family drama. The story may be funny, but you practically have to suspend your disbelief above Niagara Falls to enjoy it.
I really loved Mac – and his adorable little sister Cree - but I just could not get over the fact that Skuse drops him in as the ‘token’ best friend character and thinks she can get away with it. He deserves so much more than that. Jody rarely does right by him; it's as if she just choose not to see that the people around her need a shoulder to cry on sometimes, too. She’s selfish and allows their friendship to become totally one-sided. Jody is the kind of girl who gives nothing and takes everything. 
I came into this book knowing Jody would be a bit of a handful – but in retrospect, I had absolutely no idea how bad it would be. You know when you wonder why things that are common sense to most of us – always wearing your seatbelt in the car, reporting illegal activity, little things like that – are put on posters in public places? Characters like Jody are the reason those posters exist. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her and remind her that there were choices available to her that didn’t involve being mindlessly and unbelievably stupid. Her obsession was completely unhealthy and it’s made worse by the knowledge that there are probably real people out there who act just like she does – now that’s a  really worrying thought!

That said, Jody does go on a journey over the course of this book (albeit a fairly obvious one). She has a lot of problems and it’s clear from the start that she really, really needs to deal with them – and thankfully, eventually, she does. It just takes too long for her to get there.
But onto the good stuff. Rockoholic is outrageously, uproariously funny. It deals with bereavement, addiction and the perils of fame. It is ridiculously and fabulously unique. It’s breakneck and fast-paced. Its signature style never fails to impress. My favourite character is a person who never actually appears in Rockoholic – well, at least not while he’s alive. Jody’s rock’n’roll grandfather made me smile so much. Even in death he’s the life and soul of the party – and the book.
For me, Rockoholic essential UKYA reading. On the surface it’s a very American concept but with a click of her fingers Skuse makes the novel extremely and brilliantly British. It’s full of pop culture, trivia and slang, amplifying the already huge gulf between American rocker Jackson and English fangirl Jody. 
It’s a testament to the author’s ability that, although I reached the halfway point not particularly enamoured by the story, by the end I really appreciated the direction the book had taken and found myself thoroughly enjoying the tale. I loved that Jody learns that all actions have consequences, Jackson transform into a much more likeable person filled with fresh purpose and clarity, and Mac finally gets an answer to the question he’s been waiting to ask for so long. In a way, the ending of this book is really just the beginning. 

Rockoholic may make your eyes roll and your brain explode, but if you don’t read it, you really are missing out on something special. 

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