cover image The Exes

The Exes

Pagan Kennedy. Simon & Schuster, $23 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83481-8

The fights, friendships, loves and breakups of a modestly up-and-coming Boston band, The Exes (so named because they are all ex-boyfriends and -girlfriends), come to light from the perspective of each band member in Kennedy's hilarious, smart second novel (after Spin-sters). Rock-snob Hank wants the group to be ""so obscure and brilliant that just knowing the name of this band would be like saying a password."" Lilly, on the other hand, wants to be famous and has what she calls ""the stink,"" which Hank recognizes as the soul and genuine talent he lacks. Shaz is a mystery to the rest of the Exes: she grew up in a devoutly Muslim, Pakistani home but gained her reputation as the bassist for a lesbian punk band. Drummer Walt dropped out of Harvard grad school after a nervous breakdown and has been working in dead-end jobs and struggling to hold on to his sanity ever since. As the band gains a reputation and starts to tour, old romances rekindle and bridges burn, and Kennedy gives us our own insider tour of the indie music business. Yet the hip trappings are just that, trappings: Kennedy captures the voices and the spirits of these young musicians with depth, originality and an imaginative scope that transcends their tiny, incestuous world. (July) FYI: Pagan Kennedy was the editor of the popular zine Pagan and was dubbed ""the queen of zines"" by Wired magazine.