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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-galley
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 256
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / Fountain Bookstore
Description: Goodreads
After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.

But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies.
Supergirl Mixtapes is a deftly written coming-of-age tale encompassing everything a proper coming-of-age tale should have. It’s got family drama aplenty, just the right amount of romance, and (of course) one great big personal epiphany. At 245 pages, it may be somewhat short, but it’s definitely not always sweet.

Maria Costello (as in Elvis) was born in New York City, but she’s spent the majority of her life in teeny Red Hill, South Carolina with her workaholic dad and iron-fisted grandmother. After a somewhat unexplained personal “incident,” Maria asks to move to New York City with her “artist” mother Victoria, whom she idealizes as a spontaneous, somewhat flighty, almost mystical creature, and her mother’s much-younger rocker boyfriend. The novel follows Maria’s time in the city as she learns more about her mother than she ever cared to learn as well as discovering just how much she can handle at the ripe old age of 16.

Supergirl Mixtapes takes place in 1997 (at least it does according to my research of when The Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was released). The title already gets you in that 90s mood- I just love the sound of the word “mixtape.” Clearly, I am a huge fan of the 90s. I can always relate to an awkward girl who feels at home with a stereo, a teetering pile of records/tapes/CDs, and a set of those huge earmuff-esque headphones, because I was that girl in 1997. (Actually, I’m still that girl.) Maria lives and breathes music, mostly due to a series of Supergirl Mixtapes made with care by her best friend Dory and from the influence of her mom. While Dory tends to land more on the side of “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion,” Victoria’s influences are late 70s/early 80s bands from the New York punk scene. Patti Smith’s heavily featured, along with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Television, The Ramones, and even Joni Mitchell. Simply put, Supergirl Mixtapes is filled to the brim with music references spanning multiple decades, which I love. Also, I thought it was very interesting that, despite the 90s setting, Maria’s tale is pretty timeless. With the exception of a few mentions of Walkmans and portable CD players, it didn’t feel or sound outdated.

The solid talent of Meagan Brothers is the reason Supergirl Mixtapes soars rather than falls into the depths of clichéd despair. There’s excellent flow from one part to the next, with each scene building into the next with ease. It always felt like something was bubbling below the surface, and that slow plot burn succeeds gracefully. The reader should know what’s coming when it comes, but it falls apart in such a way that it isn’t disappointingly predictable. Brothers’ words are as brilliant as they are simple; the writing never gets in the way of the story. They complement each other perfectly. My favorite example of this is the scene at Gram’s place during the Smart Southern Kids party at NYU. The SSK converse and joke around like they actually know each other, and the reader falls right in line with them without feeling the least bit left out.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for an instant gratification read that doesn’t scrimp on plot or characterization, as well as fans of music-heavy books. I look forward to reading more by Meagan Brothers.

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