Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Image: Penguin Random House

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon. 368 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August, 2019. 9780525517641. (Review of finished book borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon. Brandon's debut is a historical fiction set in 1973 during the Watergate hearings, when Americans are still fighting in Vietnam and homosexuality is considered to be a mental illness. Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins lives a sad and lonely life at home and at school. He's bullied at school, his alcoholic father is distant; he misses his mother terribly and he's also missing his best and only friend, Starla, who is away demonstrating agains the war. His only refuge is a small crawlspace beyond his closet where he retreats to write, commune with his hero, Ziggy Stardust and occasionally talk to his mother and other dead relatives. When new kid, Web enters his life, Jonathan is thunderstruck. Web is everything Jonathan is not, fearless, comfortable in his own skin and, impossibly, Web seems to like Jonathan!

This coming-of-age novel vividly evokes the tumult of 1973 as well as Jonathan's journey to self-acceptance in his first-person, stream-of-consciousness narration. I will admit that it took me a while to feel comfortable with it. I kept stopping to reread because I felt I missed something. Once I settled, the book was hard to put down. Jonathan's story is painfully compelling. Thankfully, there were lighter moments to ease the tension. 

I was sorry to be reading a library copy because there were quite a few passages of absolutely gorgeous writing I would've highlighted to savor later. I also adored the voice and may check to see if there are plans for an audiobook. This is one I would definitely reread. Mature teen readers are in for quite a bit of discomfort as Jonathan's journey unfolds. Jonathan and Web are two characters who will leave an indelible mark on your heart. An author's note at the end helpfully provides historical context and more information.

Ziggy, Stardust and Me is the book for you if you love historical fiction, romance and David Bowie. Impressive debut. I look forward to reading more from James Brandon.

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