Saturday, April 3, 2010

Banned For Life

Read 3/23/10 - 4/3/10
5 Stars- Highly Recommended

Every once in awhile, I find myself reading a book that surprises me. A book that amazes me. A book that demands attention. A book that forces me to read it slowly, and thoroughly, in an effort to make it last. This is one of those books.

D.R. Haney's book was recommended to me by Greg Olear (author of "Totally Killer") - and I am so glad that he did, because had he not, I fear I may never have come across it on my own. And I want to thank Haney for mailing me a copy to review.

D.R. Haney spent 9 years of his life writing this novel - a chronicle of the life of fictitious punk rocker Jason Maddox and his obsession with Jim Cassidy, lead singer of Rule of Thumb, through the 80's and 90's.

But it is so much more than that. Banned for Life goes deep beneath the skin, exposing the raw ugliness of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. It's populated with people I can relate to, people with flaws and complexes, people who live and breathe and suffer and die. It's characters struggle to exorcise their inner demons. It's an unbelievable story written by a first time novelist.

Jason, the narrator of this faux memoir, is an emotional wreck. Oh God, is he a mess. From a very young age, Jason allows those around him to define him. No longer happy with fitting in or with following the rules, and itching for a way to break free, Jason befriends PeeWee, an outcast who has no intention of selling out to the crowd. He introduces Jason to the world of Punk Rock, and teaches him how to shed his preppy lifestyle for one that will allow him to express his inner punk and live like a true rock star.

When suddenly, in one fateful night, Jason loses his best friend, nearly loses his life, and makes the decision to lead a different life.

Broken into four parts, which encompasses four phases of his life, we meet the key players in Jason's life:
PeeWee - the match that lights this novel on fire. Fueling Jason's love for music and especially for the punk band Rule of Thumb, they start their own band and embark on a life filled with drugs, drinking, girls, breaking up, starting over, and an unhealthy amount of fighting.
Irina - a gorgeous Serbian woman stuck in a supposedly loveless marriage that he falls head over heels in love with. Theirs is a dysfunctional, emotionally twisted relationship.
Jim - the idol of his youth, lead singer of Rule of Thumb, and eventual agoraphobic poet. A needy, chaotic, abusive friendship that is doomed from the start.

Haney's novel is drenched in foreshadowing - He has perfected the "tease", dangling comments out there of the things to come, preparing us for each blow, dulling the impact of the punch but never taking away the pain.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was his first novel. The character development and intricate storyline was seamless. Not a word was wasted. The sentences flowed together, the dialogue was so natural. For me, this book is more like a work of art. Something to be felt as well as read. It passes beyond the eyes, takes up residence in the head.

Once I started, I knew I was not going to want it to end. It called to me every time I put it down. It begged. It screamed. I savored every moment of it, and I dreaded reading that final sentence.

Every once in awhile, I read a book that I think everyone else should read. A book that lovers of all genres can enjoy. A book that I wish I could buy for every single non-reader out there to prove to them what they are missing. This is one of those books.

If D.R. Haney releases a second novel, I will move mountains to be the first in line to buy it.

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