Book: Sorta Like a Rock Star
Author: Matthew Quick
Source: Local Library
Amber Appleton is the self-proclaimed Princess of Hope. She considers it her God-given mission to spread joy and optimism to those that need it. From spending time with a haiku-writing Vietnam vet to teaching English to Korean immigrants using R-and-B lyrics to weekly debates with a nihilistic octogenarian for the entertainment of lonely nursing-home residents, Amber does her best to let her little light shine on everyone else's life.
What nobody knows is that her own life is hardly hopeful. She's living with her mom in a school bus, barely scraping by. Amber's determined not to let anybody know, either. She's doing just fine, after all. Then a horrifying event brings Amber's world crashing down around her. She can no longer spread her message of hope. She doesn't have enough for herself.
But she's forgotten something very basic about hope and joy: they're infectious. They spread. And when you catch it, you want to spread it back, even if the person who needs it most is the person who gave it to you in the first place.
In case you haven't figured it out from that first paragraph, Amber's one wobbly step away from being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Her first-person narration overflows with verbal gymnastics. Full of optimism, running over with energy, and somehow able to make everybody and I do mean everybody love her, she's almost more quirk than character. What saves her from this fate is the very real darkness and self-doubt that permeate her quieter moments. Even before her mother dies, you have a strong sense that she is putting up a good front, sparkling as hard as she can just so nobody guesses that the darkness and the doubt are there.
I have to also mention the role of faith in this novel. Amber is openly Christian, but not in the evangelical sense. She talks about Jesus as if he's a personal friend. Not one who'll fix all her problems (so often my problem with evangelical Christianity), but someone who's on her side. Her faith doesn't pull her out of the dark, but it does hold her up for awhile as she goes through it.
Somewhere between Weetzie Bat and Pollyanna, this girl may not be terribly realistic, but she could spread a little hope into your heart too.