Stephanie Kuehnert Recommended

When: Thu., Sept. 18, 7 p.m. 2008

Emily Black, the heroine of Stephanie Kuehnert's exuberant debut novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (MTV Books), starts off a rebellious teen growing up in the nothing-ever-happens-here town of Carlisle, Wisconsin, where the only escapes are sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But for Emily the sex is empty, the drugs just make her head pound, and rocking out is the only thing that comes close to filling the void left by her mother, Louisa, who split when Emily was an infant to "follow the music," chasing bands of the moment across the country. Or so Emily's been told by her devoted dad. Emily starts her own punk band (the book's title is nicked from a Sleater-Kinney song), and on a wave of glowing word of mouth they go from playing warehouse gigs on the outskirts of Carlisle to headlining shows at the Fireside and Metro (Kuehnert's a Forest Park resident and Columbia College grad). From there they get signed, go on tour, hit number two on the Billboard chart, score a gold record, and land on the cover of Rolling Stone. But is it enough to bring mom back? "You don't abandon everyone you love unless you're desperate," Emily says at one point, and when she cuts short a tour with the group to go on her own cross-country quest to find Louisa, she learns maybe more than she'd hoped to about her mom--and about herself. --Jerome Ludwig

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