Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Debbie Harry Sings in French

Debbie Harry Sings in French
by Meagan Brothers
Henry Holt and Co., Available Now

I was completely surprised by this book. Perhaps there just aren't enough books out there that deal with teens struggling with cross-dressing. And to go beyond that, this books deals with all kinds of things. We've got teen alcoholism, death of a parent, depression, school bullying, homosexuality, teen sexuality, goth culture, divorce, and the list goes on. Perhaps there are a bit too many "issues" in this book, but at the heart of it is a story about a teen struggling to find his place in the world.

When Johnny nearly dies from a mixture of drugs and alcohol at a dance club, his mother puts him in rehab. When he returns, he doesn't feel like he's the same person anymore. It's hard for him to connect with his goth friends, he doesn't want to drink anymore, and he has an uber-obsession with Blondies lead-singer, Debbie Harry.

In Debbie Harry, he says someone who is tough-as-nails, beautiful, and completely cool. He wants to be just like Debbie Harry. When Johnny's girlfriend buys him a dress just like the one Debbie Harry wears on an album cover, he's ashamed and confused by the gift. Part of him wants to yell at his girlfriend for even thinking that he'd want the dress. While another part of him wants to try it on.

Much of Debbie Harry Sings in French is new territory for me. I'm not familiar with Goth culture, nor with cross-dressing for that matter. What I enjoyed about the book was I didn't feel left out of the subjects in the book even though I wasn't familiar with them. Johnny explains why he dresses the way he does and he does it with honesty and clarity.

For various reasons, this is a great book. You come away caring about Johnny and wanting the best for him.

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