Title: Sorta Like A Rock Star
Author: Matthew Quick
ISBN: 9780316043526
Pages: 355 pages
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, c2010.

“But the truth is that I don’t want anyone to know that I am living out of Hello Yellow — that my mom’s last boyfriend, A-hole Oliver, threw us the hell out of his apartment, and that my mom has to save up some dough before we can get four walls of our own. I mean, it’s a pretty pathetic story, and I’m not really all that proud to be my mom’s daughter right now. Homelessness reflects badly on both of us. True? True.
I’m sure there are people who would let us crash at their houses, because the town of Childress is full of good-hearted dudes and dudettes. Word. But charity is for cripples and old people and Mom is sure to come through one of these days. I still have Bobby Big Boy, and Mom still has her job driving Hello Yellow, all of our clothes and stuff fit in the two storage bins between the wheels, below the bus windows, so it’s all good in the hood. (8)

Amber Appleton is full of optimism, which is difficult to believe considering she lives in the school bus that her mother drives for work. Intent on making the most of her life, Amber befriends a group of misfits at school, teaches English to a group of Korean women through music, and spends time with the residents of a nursing home and a reclusive veteran. But even Amber cannot maintain her eternal enthusiasm for life, and when tragedy strikes, she’s left questioning what is really so great about life.

I want Amber’s attitude! In the beginning of the story, she has an insurmountable spirit that she is intent on spreading. She reminds me of Pollyanna. Actually, the whole story has that Pollyanna quality, because in both something happens where you want to reach over and grab the tissue box. Like Pollyanna, Amber is full of character, spending all her energy to make the world a better place. It’s hard not to admire Pollyanna, but it’s also hard to blindly accept that there is someone who is that optimistic. In Sorta Like A Rock Star, Amber’s reaction is what really convinces readers of her strength, because of what she is forced to overcome and the emotional journey she takes in order to maintain her positive outlook on life. Her courage and conviction regarding everything is what really sells the character, and makes her much more than a Pollyanna look-alike.

Amber has some good people in her life that combine to offset her mother’s ineptitude, including Donna (a concerned parent of one of Amber friends), Mr. Franks (the marketing teacher), and Father Chee (the pastor of the Korean Church). But even her mother, with all her faults, still tries the best she can considering the circumstances. Her mother seems to forgo food for herself to ensure that her daughter is eating. She covers Amber up with the blanket at night, to ensure her warmth. And she tries to give Amber as many good memories as possible, which Amber shows readers through her recollections of “all-time Amber-and-her-mom” moments.

While yes, the ending might strike some as a little corny and predictable, it’s one that you really don’t mind and you still find yourself smiling at the outcome. It’s the ending that somehow makes up for all the heartache that you and Amber felt through the journey.

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