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Review – Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

debbie harry sings in french

Debbie Harry Sings in French
by Meagan Brothers
232 pages
Published May 27, 2008

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers is the other book I was judging for the Nerds Heart YA Book Tournament. This book was up against The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson, and the winner will go on to the next round.

Debbie Harry Sings in French is about Johnny, whose dad is killed when he’s 12 years old. Johnny’s mom can’t take care of the bills, cooking, cleaning, anything, so Johnny starts taking these things over so he won’t get put into foster care. Unfortunately, he starts drinking, too, so by age 16 he ends up in an in-patient rehab center where he first hears Debbie Harry sing in French.

And on those last few Parkwood Sunday mornings, instead of fantasizing about beer dregs, I slipped on my headphones and listened to Blondie. Listerning to Debbie Harry sing the French part of “Sunday Girl” was somehow more reassuring than anything the counselors had told me so far….But if they were right, and drinking eased the pain before, maybe Blondie could do it for me now.

After Johnny comes home from treatment, his mom sends him to live with his uncle, her brother-in-law. Johnny’s angry at first, but his uncle treats him like an adult, which Johnny likes. At the new school, Johnny’s teased as being gay, though he swears he’s not. He ends up dating a girl from school who doesn’t fit in either, and she’s the best thing that ever could have happened to him. She’s supportive, she doesn’t think it’s weird that he likes Blondie, and while she hopes he’s not gay, she’d be okay if he was.

This is where I must stop. Normally when I write a review, I give you enough background to get to the crux of the story. The weird part here is that the crux of the story is whether or not Johnny is a transvestite, someone who cross-dresses. But to lead up to that point, I have to practically tell you the whole story, and since I don’t want to do that, let what I’ve told you so far suffice, and we can now discuss the book itself.

Debbie Harry Sings in French isn’t in any way crass or over the top. In fact, I’d call it more gentle than anything. It’s a sweet story; it’s a nice story, though I’m not sure it dealt with anything particularly deep. It danced on the lines of getting deep, but just didn’t quite get there.

Also, the thread about Johnny being a transvestite was weak for me. I just didn’t see the character development to believe that Johnny really felt that way. I felt like his wanting to be a transvestite was pushed on him rather than a realization that that’s who he is.

I thought the writing of Meagan Brothers was really good. I think she’s taken a difficult and perhaps sensitive topic and put it in a story that would appeal to most people. This is her first book, so I’m really interested to see what she’ll come up with next.

With all that said, Debbie Harry Sings in French was a solidly good book. It wasn’t great, but it’s a book I can recommend almost without reservations.

Rating: 86 out of 100

Buy the book: Powell’s | Amazon

Other reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews (she said everything I was trying to say, only better)

The Story Siren

Abby the Librarian

Oops…Wrong Cookie

Reading Rants

Worth the Trip

From the Corner of Megan’s Mind

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

| Tags: , , , , , , , 8 comments »

8 Responses to “Review – Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers”

  1. Beth F

    I like Debbie Harry, so that would attract me to the book in the first place, but I’ll likely pass on this book.


  2. Lezlie

    Just because I’m a huge Blondie geek, Ms. Harry sings in French in Rapture, Call Me and a few others, too. 🙂 It’s freaky to see her name in a book title.



  3. Kathy

    Is the fact that people suspect Johnny is gay supposed to be related to the possibility that he could be a transvestite? I’m intrigued enough that I might have to read the book.


  4. Alyce

    This sounds like a very unique book. I haven’t yet read any YA fiction about someone considering whether or not they’re a transvestite.


  5. Joanne

    I picked this up from the library this week – in all honesty I was attracted to a young adult novel with Debbie Harry in the title, being a Blondie fangirl!
    Your review is great, and I really like that you say it approached deep without actually getting too deep. Sometimes it’s just nice to know ahead of time what to expect on that level.


  6. Shawna

    I just read this entire book within 4 hours! Very special read. It was like an odd Lifetime movie, only with a good soundtrack. Hahaha.


  7. zibilee

    Sounds like an unusual book, but unusual in a good way! I like the sound of it, especially when you say it’s kind of a gentle read. I am really into subtle and gentle reads right now. Definitely putting this one on my wish list. Thanks!


  8. bobbiloo

    Just finished the book…such a sweet story and can identify with johnny…a nice piece of young adult fiction


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