Stephanie Kuehnert Free Recommended

When: Thu., Aug. 13, 8 p.m. 2009

Stephanie Kuehnert appears for the Prose, Poetry, and Pints series. 21+. Following up on her exuberant 2008 debut, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, Stephanie Kuehnert delivers another musically inflected novel depicting teen angst, Ballads of Suburbia (MTV Books)—and it's decidedly darker than her first. Teenage Kara lives with her parents and younger brother in Oak Park, where she hangs out in Scoville Park along with other misfits: "metalheads, stoners, hippies, punks, ravers, indie rockers, skaters, and those really weird kids who seemed to elude all categorization." Though her folks had talked up Oak Park like it was a "fairy-tale kingdom" before moving there from the south side, it has a Grimm brothers feel. The kids deal with divorced or indifferent parents, noncommittal or abusive boyfriends, and the betrayal of peers. Though the escape of choice is generally drugs--pot, meth, or heroin--Kara is also a cutter: "blood plus pain would make me calm." She and her inner circle keep a scrapbook of tragic newspaper clippings they call "Stories of Suburbia"; each troubled kid has added his or her own personal "ballad" to the collection, and their stories are as awful as anything they've pulled from the papers. --Jerome Ludwig

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