Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Book Review: Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno

     Alright, so I finished this book about three weeks ago. Get off my back. I've been busy with editing and super-secret-exciting-writing-things...and seeing The Hunger Games. And getting on the non-stop-fucked-up-I-cannot-look-away-derailed-train that is Fifty Shades of Grey. But that's an entirely different blog post...or...five.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on this book:

     If you have ever been in high school, read this book.
     If you ever felt like you didn't belong, read this book.
     If you ever felt like you didn't fit into your own family, read this book.
     If you like The Misfits, Guns and Roses, The Smiths, classic rock, punk, or goth music, read this book.
     If you ever went to basement shows, read this book.
     If you ever tried to get with a girl/guy that just didn't get that you wanted to get with them, read this book.
     If you have ever heard of or were/are part of the East Bay, Hardcore, Straightedge, etc movements, read this book.
     If you live in a hick town, read this book.
     If you ever/do own(ed) a skateboard, read this book.
     If you have ever tried to dye your hair an unnatural color such as pink, blue, or green, read this book.

   ...And those are just a few reasons.
     I don't even know where to start with this book. I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it.

     The story follows this kid named Brian Oswald, who is this normal teenager, going through trying to find out who he is while his home life is falling apart. He tries to fit in with this girl, Gretchen, who's a punk, and falls in love with her and junk. But she's busy chasing this other, older, really gross guy.
     The story takes place in Chicago's South side, where racism is rampant, there are skinheads, and black kids at school get segregated based on the music they listen to (in so many words).
     Actually, everything in this book seems to come down to music. That's probably why I loved it so much. The writer must have either kept a journal in high school, or just has a really good memory. But when you're in high school, at least it was my experience, so much depends on what music you listen to, what clothes you wear, which "sub culture" you belong in. This story shows how everything can change if you listen to something that not everyone excepts...like The Misfits.
     And this book is HONEST. It is so heart-breakingly honest, that I wanted to find this character and hug him and go combat boot shopping with him, and just tell him that everything will get better once he's out of high school, I promise.
     There is no filter, which is something I loved. If this kid was thinking about sex, he was thinking about sex...in detail. If someone got a bloody nose, they got a bloody nose, in all it's gory-goodness. There were times where the character said or thought the word "fuck" so many times that I had to stop and say, "Yes. he's got it right."
    This book does one of my favorite things ever: saying a lot by saying very little.
    You see the world through Brian's glasses, and you begin to feel what he feels and understand why.
    This book seriously has everything that I love in it with the exception of Amanda Palmer. But this was written before Amanda Palmer, so I will forgive the author. : )


     With all of that said, I think there are a FEW drawbacks to the book:
     When my friend, Sara, let me borrow this book, she said something like, "Here, it's about punk stuff. I think you'll like it." And she was spot on. However, I think for all the reasons that I love, love, loved this book, others could hate it for.
     People who may not be familiar with punk, or the "reasons to read the book" that I listed above, may be completely turned off. If someone has no idea what hardcore or straightedge is, they'll be confused. The author, therefore, the character, does not stop to explain what each sub-genre of music/lifestyle is, but there's a point. Also, at first glance, the plot seems to drop off in the middle of the story. But when I went back a tiny bit and re-read it, my mind was blown as to why it seemed that way.
     I don't want to ruin the whole story. I hate it when I read a book review and the whole story is revealed. BUT I will say this: this is not your average story, and it is not your average person telling it. The whole thing is a commentary on how and why people think, act, dress, listen to the types of music that they do. And the fact that all of it, ultimately, does not matter.
     And that, my friends, is why, even if you have no clue why this kid's favorite band sings songs with lyrics like, "I've got something to say, I killed your baby today," you should read it until the end.
     Brian Oswald comes to the very same realization by the end of the book that I had by the end of my high school experience. That's it's all bullshit.
     That's all I'm going to say about it.
     So, all "the weird kids" would probably appreciate this book the most, just because they'll get it first.
     But all you non-weirdos should read it anyway.