Admittedly, I didn’t think I would be so in to this book, or actually, I wasn’t really planning on reading it! Jackie listened to it on audio (thank you to Audiobook Jukebox for that one) and didn’t have many compliments to pay the narrator. It was an older man forcing an 11-year-old voice out of him. Pass. But this title was for the Critical Era’s April book club meeting and we were going to be talking to Teddy Wayne. Given that, I still wasn’t sure I was wanting to dive in to a story said to be loosely based on Justin Bieber.
Those excuses changed after our recent podcast chat with Aaron (Critical Era Captain) and he said that he had to start it before our Thursday night meeting too, so let’s read it together. Fine, fine. Okay, fine. I’ll start it.
What I truly did not anticipate was how quickly I was drawn in to this (sad, make me seriously unhappy and depressed and spend my nights worrying for all child stars) story. I cruised through it in under two days and it pained me to be away from it for long periods of time. Therefore, while I’m still glad I heeded Jackie’s warning and stayed away from the audio I’m glad I allowed the challenge from Aaron to get me to read the book.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine follows the life on tour of the 11-year-old pop star, Jonny Valentine. The story is told from Jonny’s perspective and we learn of his days where he must be cognizant (but not too cognizant) of market share, fan base and performance schedules, carb elimination and an excessive work-out regime. We also learn, that at the age of 11, Jonny is popping zolpidems to sleep and is obsessed with maintaining a weight under 87 pounds. His mother, Jane, is also his manager and provides Jonny with a punishing, gruelling and extensive tour and publicity regime in order to maintain their (increasingly tenuous) hold on pop-stardom.
“No, it couldn’t. What could is dehydration, vomiting, strenuous exercise, and both physical and mental exhaustion. This is not what a typical eleven-year-old can handle. Even child actors have far less punishing schedules.”
“He turns twelve in under two months,” Jane said.
The details of a pill-popping, weight-conscious, kept in the dark 11-year-old child pop star made me want to vomit. Jonny has no idea of how to live a “normal life” and consistently spews pop-culture, marketing and industry-speak. Most certainly, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine wonderfully, wonderfully details our obsession with celebrity. Wonderful, yet deeply saddening and depressing details. It comes as no surprise these child stars unravel and have to do so in such a public manner.
“Anyway, I’ve been mulling our options for the next six months or so, she said. “Even if album sales have lagged, the gate receipts have been respectable. If the live-stream sells well, I think the label would be open to a bigger tour to expand your fan base.”
If there was any inkling of signing your children on for possible pop/movie/TV stardom, it would quickly, quickly be dashed from all recesses of your mind after reading this tightly written little gem.
But I looked out the window at the side of the highway and thought about what it might be like to not be on tour anymore. I hadn’t been around regular kids in a long time…All I was around were fans. I couldn’t hardly even remember what school was like by now. When you live one way for a while you sort of forget how you lived before.”
I’d also be able to sleep in again and not have to spend months recording and rehearsing and traveling and performing. I hadn’t had a real hiatus for two years.”
This evening we have the pleasure of speaking with Teddy Wayne via Skype for the Critical Era book club meeting. I cannot wait to talk this book over with him. I can only imagine a lively, engaging discourse and exchange will be happening tonight. So once again, thank you to the Critical Era book club for challenging me to read this title, because it was definitely an engaging read. It was a great and critical look at celebrity and the pitfalls of child stardom. 3.5 stars for me.
Throughout the book, there was a great deal of discussion (obsession) about Jonny’s weight. He himself was obsessed about it, weighed himself constantly and his mother/manager consistently nagged him repeatedly on what he was eating. In exchange for anything extra or carb-heavy, Jonny was required to do excessive cardio to make up for it. As this book clearly ties itself in its many suggestive examples as being about the life and times of Justin Bieber, and from coming across this picture yesterday, it begs me to wonder, does Bieber have an eating disorder?
Here you can watch Teddy Wayne (cleverly) explain what his book is all about: