how to kill a rock star: a review.

Those that are close to me know that I’m really careful about recommending books to anyone. The reasons for that are as follows:

1. I was an English major, so I’m aware my taste can be a little skewed on the analytical side of things.

2. That aside, I’m still a romantic at heart.

3. I’m very protective of the books that mean a great deal to me.

4. I don’t want anyone to insult a book I’ve really loved.

That being said, I’m pretty picky. Last year, I nearly threw out the window no less than 2 books I deemed unforgivable. And that is not to include the entire 50 Shades of Grey “triology” which, yes, I read and yes, I continue to wonder how some editor ever passed them off before running out of ink in her red pen … and then the rest of the red pens in her entire red pen pack.

Needless to say, I picked up How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo on Sunday night and devoured it in a quick two days.

how-to-kill-a-rockstar

First of all, I have to mention that I’ve owned this book for years. I bought it almost immediately after finishing God-Shaped Hole and declaring it perhaps one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

I can only think of two possible reasons that I might have put off reading How to Kill a Rock Star until this week.

1. If it didn’t match up to God-Shaped Hole it would be such a bummer.

2. Once I read it, there were no more Tiffanie DeBartolo books left.

But, as is typical of my reading habits, I was looking for a distraction from my slow-read of Wuthering Heights (why have I now seen two movies where the main characters claim to read WH once a year and I can’t read it … once?) and stopped by my place to pick up How to Kill a Rock Star on a whim. The thing is, I go through periods where I crave lit like this. Stories that are well written, passionate, deep, strong, and tragic. What DeBartolo does in both of her books is tell so much more than a story. She tells about the heart of people. In How to Kill a Rock Star the key centers around one idea:

“Tell me what you listen to, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

What I love about DeBartolo, beyond her magic way with words, is her knowledge of music and the way she uses that in her writing to evoke feeling not just with the readers, but with the characters as well. I used to always think – to make a totally incompatible “pop culture” reference – that there was something utterly fantastic about how you always knew how Felicity was feeling about Ben (in Felicity) by whether or not she was listening to Sarah McLachlan.

In How to Kill a Rock Star, music and love are one in the same. For Paul, he can qualify Eliza’s love by the way she reacts to music and the way music affects her – not only physically (goosebumps galore), but all the way through to her soul.

DeBartolo creates a kind of love, confined between pages of black and white text, that you can’t help but crave.

“Sometimes I would open my eyes when we were kissing, I would watch him and I could see it. I could actually see LOVE – not words, not an emotion, not an abstract concept or a subjective state of mind, but a living, breathing thing.” – Eliza

Paul and Eliza are both convinced (quite rightly) that music can save a life, as it arguably saved both of theirs more than once. I sometimes feel that way about literature. Because the right books, the right words, the right characters have saved my life before. Picking up How to Kill a Rock Star reminded me of all that I want out of someone, right at a time when I was trying to rationalize that exact thing.

The book begins while Paul, a rockstar-in-the-making, is living in NYC and, not to sound too cheesy, is missing something he didn’t know he was missing. That is until Eliza becomes his new roommate, moving to the city to begin her writing career with a music publication. Eliza was [or so she thought] getting over a broken heart; really, she was on the verge of discovering the truth about love.

“I had the feeling I’d just found something I didn’t know I’d lost. We hovered above the moment like two rain clouds, until I said, ‘Don’t swear off all fruit just because you ate one bad apple.'” – Paul

Paul and Eliza enter into a passionate affair that is selfless to the point of being masochistic – a noun which in no way skims the surface of the book’s climax.

“Absorbing his words was like taking a drink of hot tea. They burned on the way down, but soothed my insides once they had time to cool off.” – Eliza

The thing that makes DeBartolo so different to me, as an author, is that she challenges the reader. She doesn’t write something that’s one dimensional in an age of chick lit and beach reads. While Doug Blackman describes in the book the soullessness of music and how it has evolved into something spinelessly consumer-driven, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that that same idea applies to the manner in which literature has evolved. Yes, I’m throwing stones in a glass house because I like to read something mindless and heart popping (instead of heart wrenching) every now and then as much as the next person. But if every book I read could be written by Tiffanie DeBartolo, I’d live in that world in a heartbeat.

“Paul was in the air. He was the air. He hovered above the city breathing on me, stifling me, and providing life at the same time.” – Eliza

Eliza has one great fear. After losing her parents in a plane crash prior to page 1, Eliza swears off planes to the point where it becomes an obsession – with crashes and airline stats and the works. Her fear of flying, in turn, becomes an analogy used by DeBartolo to convey her fear of everything else – love, life, Paul.

I can’t use enough words to emphasize how DeBartolo’s writing has saved my life, but I can try. She’s given me books I wish to read over and over again, love in which to hope and strive for, and a strong belief that it is possible to find something that fills you up – heart and soul and even down to your toes.

“Eliza has the sky in her eyes and I’ve always wanted to touch the goddamn sky.” – Paul

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