Stephanie Kuehnert | Old School Records | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Stephanie Kuehnert Free Recommended

When: Sun., Sept. 27, 2 p.m. 2009

Kuehnert reads from her novel Ballads of Suburbia. Joint appearance with Donald G. Evans and Billy Lombardo. 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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