Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
Novel: Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick | Goodreads
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism—and her way of life, can Amber continue to be the rock star of hope? With an oddball cast of characters, and a heartwarming, inspiring story, this novel unveils a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope.
Every once in a while, I come across a book beating with so much vibrancy and vitality that every chapter leaves me feeling invigorated. The conflicts are real and engaging, and the characters are complex enough to thrive in the real world. Rare and powerful, novels like this seem tantalizingly tangible. Sorta Like a Rock Star is one of these stories, and its cast of misfits bring it to life, making history in my mind as some of the best and most lifelike characters of all time.
Amber Appleton leads this story with witty narration and superhuman strength. Despite dealing with issues I could never understand, she does not whine about living in a bus or having a mother who would rather burn her paycheck at a bar than buy food. Instead, she comments on her situation with her smart and endearing voice, ending some statements with an unironic “word” or an amusing “True? True.” She uses believable solutions, like eating and showering at a close friend’s house, to mitigate her problems, and she plans for a career as a lawyer. Best of all, she thinks of other people’s happiness before her own, which made me respect her more than any fictional person I have encountered in a while. Amber’s character does waver after the tragedy mentioned in the synopsis, but in an emotional way rather than an annoying one. By the time the huge blow hits her, I had grown to love her so much that I empathized with her rather than chastised her for succumbing to her misery. I knew her wallowing would not last forever, so her temporary depression only gave me another reason to cheer for her.
Amber is not the only rock star in this book; the secondary characters are equally amazing. All of the protagonist’s friends and role models have effortless quirks that the author handles with grace. I loved how Quick bestowed members of the supporting cast with disabilities and other issues—one of Amber’s friends has autism, another is wheelchair-bound, and another is a Vietnam War veteran who barely interacts with people other than Amber—without letting these characteristics define them. More importantly, they all offer Amber impressive amounts of support. Amber’s life may seem rough, but she is indescribably lucky to have these caring people for friends.
With issues that leave readers hoping for a happy conclusion and characters who strive to achieve just that, Sorta Like a Rock Star is a gem of a novel that will put a smile on readers’ faces and remind them that they can get past setbacks. I would not want to be any of the characters in this book, but I would love to be more like all of them. After reading their story, I feel inspired to accomplish that goal.