The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
By Teddy Wayne
(Free Press, Hardcover, 9781476705859, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
When Whiting Writers’ Award winner Teddy Wayne published his critically acclaimed debut, Kapitoil, it was hailed as “one of the best novels of [this] generation” by the Boston Globe and was shortlisted for a spate of national prizes.
Jonathan Franzen wrote in The Daily Beast that “no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for [this type of character.]” Now, in The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, Wayne turns his sharp wit, flawless narrative ventriloquism, and humane sensibility to our monstrous obsession with fame.
Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.
Poignant, brilliant, and viciously funny, told through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable child narrators, this literary masterpiece explores with devastating insight and empathy the underbelly of success in 21st-century America. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a tour de force by a standout voice of his generation.
Teddy Wayne, the author of Kapitoil, is the winner of a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award and a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He writes regularly for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. He lives in New York.
"Sad-funny, sometimes cutting...more than a scabrous sendup of American celebrity culture; it’s also a poignant portrait of one young artist’s coming of age."
"Heartbreakingly convincing...Hate Bieber? Wayne's touching portrait might change your mind."
"Surprisingly moving...heartbreaking...A mix of pre-adolescent angst and industry cynicism that makes him sound like Holden Caulfield Jr. adrift in Access Hollywood hell."
“Deft and delightful . . . touching (and unexpectedly suspenseful) . . . so frank and engaging . . . A sweeter, softer-edged satire of the pop-culture carnival.”
"'The Love Song of Jonny Valentine' is a fun, highly diverting read.…Wayne generates considerable sympathy for the 11-year-old kid trapped at the center of the churning entertainment machine….This is a portrait of the artist as a young brand.”
"It would be easy to simply satirize the life and times of an 11-year-old pop star. But while Wayne does riff on America's obsessions with youth, celebrity and weight, among other things, he chooses to take his hero seriously….If Justin Bieber provides the book's cultural context, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" gives it its soul…. [An] entertaining novel about the pop-celebrity-Internet air we all breathe, even if we don't want to inhale."
"The Love Song of Jonny Valentine” is a showstopper….The book’s greatest triumph — and there are many — is Jonny’s voice, which falls somewhere between bright-eyed kid and jaded industry veteran (of course, he is both)….In addition to an exquisite rendering of Jonny’s growing awareness, the novel provides other delights [and] plenty of genuinely affecting moments. As Jonny realizes he has the money and power of an island nation, he feels the disappointments of his life more keenly and asserts himself in ways that aren’t anywhere near family friendly; we discover he is a flawed child in addition to an exploited one and empathize with him because of it. In the end, “The Love Song of Jonny Valentine” is a serious book that is way more fun than the life of a child star."
"Heartbreaking and amusing...more than anything, Jonny reminded me of Jack, the 5-year-old captive narrator of Emma Donoghue's Room. Like Room, this novel takes a sordid tabloid situation and illuminates it with a child's voice so real you want to climb inside the book and rescue him."
"Through Wayne’s assured prose and captivating storytelling, we see Jonny as one large cog in the entertainment machine—who, despite how talented he may be, knows he may soon be replaced by a younger model."
"A buoyant, smart, searing portrait of our culture's obsession with young pop stars."
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
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