Sunday, July 27, 2008

Party like it's 1989

The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow inexplicably takes place in 1989. Do you think the author liked the soundtrack of the late 80s? There are a lot of references to music in this short novel from Australia. Rachel is headed into her senior year with the usual set of issues for a 17-year-old: Clueless parents, glamorous older (?) sister, no boyfriend, and that certain anxiousness that comes from knowing that you're coming to the end of something. On the other hand, she's a good student, she has a good job -- with the intention of getting better at it, and some wacky, but supportive friends. But then, the notorious -- and good-looking -- Nick McGowan gets kicked out of his prep school and Rachel's parents offer him a room so he can finish up his high school career.

Rachel was already obsessed with Nick (although, in my listening, I missed the plot point of how she originally knew him and why he was going to school in a town where his parents don't live ...), so living so close to him may cause her carefully constructed life to come crashing down about her ears. Nick's got a secret ... and Rachel is going to find out what it is, even if it means eavesdropping on phone calls and rifling through his drawers.

This was a briefly enjoyable, and extemely minor piece of fictional fluff that was narrated by the Australian-sounding Tamara Lovatt-Smith. She read with the right amount of humor for the self-doubting and -deprecating Rachel. But everyone else in the story also sounded like Rachel, as did the narrative portions of the book. I can hear her voice as a narrator, but now that I think back on it, there was simply no variation in her reading style. It all sounded the same to me. With the exception of the Australian accent, this might be more fun in print. It's a nice beach-type book, definitely a cut above the trashy teen stuff of the Gossip Girls and their ilk.

But there was that whole 1989 setting. Pop references abounded: Magnum, P.I., Simon and Simon, Phil Collins, the Ramones (which I can never hear about now without thinking of King Dork and "I wanna ramone you"), the Beach Boys. All of which I think would be familiar to today's teens, but still ... why? There were a couple times in the story when dialogue or terminology brought me right out of the 80s -- I think the author used "hooked up," but I could be confusing this with the book I started this morning; the story would have worked equally well in a fully contemporary setting. Well, you're supposed to write what you know ...

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