cover image The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

Teddy Wayne. Free Press, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4767-0585-9

A coming-of-age tale with a modern context, this sharply written novel from the Whiting Writers’ Award-winning author of Kapitoil pulls back the curtain on the 21st-century fame machine. Not unlike a certain fever-inducing pop star, ‘tween sensation Jonny Valentine went from YouTube to Madison Square Garden with bubblegum hits like “Guys vs. Girls” and “U R Kewt.” Now each decision on his national tour is choreographed for mass appeal, from what team to feature on his baseball hat, to the femme pop star with whom his label stages a date. Along for the ride is his mom Jane, micromanaging his image, scheduling weekly weigh-ins, and generally fending off normalcy to keep a good thing going. But through an intimate first-person characterization masterfully executed by Wayne, we see fame through Jonny’s complicated point of view. Beneath the rote catechism of his overmanaged career (“Jane says we’re in the business of making fat girls feel like they’re pretty for a few hours”) are the wholehearted yearnings of a conflicted 11-year-old: his obsession with getting a successful erection, a desire to be like his musical idols, and most of all a quest to reconnect with his father. The smart skewering of the media, both highbrow and low, is wickedly on target. And a mock New Yorker article is a memorable literary lampoon. But the real accomplishment is the unforgettable voice of Jonny. If this impressive novel, both entertaining and tragically insightful, were a song, it would have a Michael Jackson beat with Morrissey lyrics. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)