Here’s another one from the YA music fiction, quick read stack. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour is a road trip book about four friends who just graduated high school and now they’re taking the show on the road. The three girls may be the world’s worst band, but they cobbled together a bunch of gigs and now they’re on tour, playing in dingy basement parties and dumpy dives from San Francisco to Portland for a few weeks before going their separate ways.
The set up works. Who wouldn’t want to go along for the ride?
The answer is Colby. Colby doesn’t want to go along for the ride, not once Bev, his best friend and lead singer in the band, tells him she’s backing out on the pact they made to ditch college and travel all over Europe instead. She’s going to attend RISD in Rhode Island in the fall, and he’s going possibly nowhere. He saved for this trip for years, didn’t apply to college so he could travel the world with Bev. Now what?
Bev’s news puts a damper on Colby’s spirit. Since he’s the narrator, it puts a damper on the tone and changes the direction of the story from one of adventure to the kind of self absorption that may eventually lead to self discovery, but is actually pretty boring to read as an internal play-by-play. We spend a lot of time in a lovesick Colby’s dreary thoughts as he navigates, mopes and dutifully lugs equipment as roadie.
The band isn’t very good, but that’s not the point. For them it’s about making music and having a good time, which they sort of manage to do in spite of Colby – chilling in hot tubs, getting a tattoo, meeting new people and lots of daydreaming.
There’s something about distance, being removed from what’s familiar, that lets things happen.
I like that they take this trip in Colby’s uncle’s vintage VW van named Melinda. For me, the main source of tension while reading was the fear that something terrible would happen to the van.
I also appreciated that it’s not about trying to make a lot of money fast or yearning to become wildly famous. They just love music and want to make some of their own. Colby is the one without a clear next step. He’ the one searching for that feeling of “rightness” and he’s tired of talking about things and never dong them. Most of all he’s sick of having so much love for Bev and not knowing what to do with it when she doesn’t accept it.
For me, this would’ve worked better told in the third person. Oddly, Colby’s voice annoyed me and finally I realized why. He’s not a believable guy. All four of them are pretty one dimensional, but he fell especially flat, which is a problem because his arc is supposed to carry the story. I also found the writing to be unnecessarily thick, moments felt forced. Listen close and you’ll almost hear them grunting from the strain of trying so hard to deliver something profound. My reaction to this book: Meh.