Friday, January 21, 2011

Friend is Not A Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft

Henry (Hen for short) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, who also kicked him out of her band.  His sister is on the lam as a criminal, and his parents continue to try hard to make him eat meat.....the only solid thing in his life is his best friend and next door neighbor, Emma. 

And so begins the life of Hen Birnbaum, official bum.  He lives the life of a teenager in NYC, trying to get gigs in places like the Bimbo Lounge and wondering where the popular tag, "Steal Your Parents' Money," found on buttons all over the city, originated.  But right now, he has better things to think about - like why his sister decided to come home after a year of absence without warning and what the heck happened to her, why he and his friend Emma keep having some strange karmic connection through dreams and cell phone calls, and how come his parents are the most uncool people on the planet?

When Sarah, finally gets home, she tells him to see Gabriel, her partner in crime about bass guitar lessons.  It can only help him become that famous rock star he's always wanted to be (according to the VH1 Behind the Music video he plays through his head that happens to star him as uber rock star of the future).  But for now, his rock-star self  gets to walk dogs while trying to figure out what happened to his sister and Gabriel and why they're being sought out by the authorties.  It doesn't hurt that Hen commits his first crime ever by stealing Gabriel's manuscript (aka his love letter to Sarah) but it only adds fuel to the burning question of why (Jean Paul Satre's head, an ex- Nazi and leyaks don't help anything either!)

But along the way, Hen realizes that the Unseen Hand can either give him a fist bump, a high five or slap him in the face, and his life, which he may find pathetic, has some very interesting qualities to it.  And sometimes a crisi-tunity (crisis and opportunity) is the most important thing you can try to overcome. 

Ehrenhaft writes another extremely humorous novel about the life of a typical teen-age guy living out a life of angst with weirdo parents, a failed relationship with a rock goddess, all while trying to live out his dream of rocking out.  Filled with lots of rock and roll references from David Bowie to Green Day to Journey, this novel will make you smile, if not make you laugh out loud.  Along with a great story, Ehrenhaft parallels the plot with the sub-text of true friendship, where the word "friend" was a noun only but is now a verb as well (think Facebook) and how the the circles of friendship created in his story use both type of grammar to make their connections.  What a refreshing, funny and humorous book in the midst of everything dark and deep in YA lit!

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