CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 17. . . .January 8, 2010.
The Vinyl Princess.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2010.
313 pp., pbk., $14.99.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Beth Wilcox.
Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.
Recently (like three days ago), I started a blog called thevinylprincess.com. It started out as an experiment to see if there was anyone out there in the world who cared about music and vinyl the way I do, I mean besides Bob and some of his customers. It occurred to me that if you were a chain-saw juggler and you Googled chain-saw jugglers you’d find your people in a matter of seconds, so how hard could it be for me to find my people? I’m hoping that if there’s enough of us and we all find one another, maybe we can band together and turn the music world around; maybe we can start a movement just like in the sixties in People’s Park. We could revolt against corporate rock and downloading and digitizing and Clear Channel. Okay, sure, you won’t see vinyl collectors rioting in the streets, but at the very least we could become a vinyl preservation society.
Sixteen-year-old Allie, short for Alberta, is on a mission to spread the gospel of record collecting. According to Allie, she is “what people in the record store business refer to as a ‘throwback,’ an ‘audiophile,’ a ‘record geek.’” As an employee at Bob & Bob Records in her hometown of Berkeley, CA, Allie is spending her summer break surrounded by people who share her passion. Allie’s love for records motivates her to create a blog and fanzine under the pseudonym the Vinyl Princess. The novel is interspersed with quotes from this bog and fanzine. Readers can find the blog online, where they can also order a copy of the fanzine. Comparisons between The Vinyl Princess and Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity are inevitable as Allie uses her encyclopedic knowledge of music to interpret and react to events. Since Allie shows a great deal of disdain for contemporary pop music, her first person narration is generally infused with references to music that is older than she is. While there are times when this makes Allie seem snobby and elitist, she is easily redeemed by her otherwise humorous and compassionate personality.
Allie is a likable, self-confident, and witty narrator who experiences some fairly typical adolescent struggles, including her first romance and heartbreak. After falling in love with the wrong but oh-so-attractive boy, Allie realizes she should date the less-physically-appealing nerd who shares her musical interests. Fortunately, Allie’s charismatic narration also helps mediate an underwhelming plot line regarding a string of armed robberies which predictably ends up being connected to her mysterious love interest.
Allie’s experience is strongly rooted to her sense of community in Telegraph Avenue, the area where Bob and Bob’s record store is located. This eclectic neighborhood comes to life in Prinz’s rich descriptions of its population of eccentrics, students, artists, former hippies, homeless people and drug addicts. Prinz provides a refreshing view on the life of an urban adolescent. While Allie is well aware of the high levels of homelessness, substance abuse, violence, and poverty that exist in her community, she still sees the positive aspects of the area. Difficult social issues are not treated didactically; rather, readers are left to form their own conclusions based on Allie’s observations. Overall, residents of Telegraph Avenue who suffer from problems such as substance abuse are seen as members of the community. In fact, Allie seems to look down on the yuppie Berkley students or the suburban consumers who travel to the neighborhood on weekends more than she does the resident homeless drug addicts.
Prinz, author of the “Clare” series for tweens and co-founder of Amoeba Music, has created a cast of highly entertaining and quirky supporting characters that are fairly typical to young adult fiction. Many readers will like Allie’s loving but domestically-challenged mother, her liberal Jewish grandmother, the beautiful and dramatic best friend, the sexy bad-boy, and the loveable geek. While a few readers may enjoy Allie’s obsession with records, it is Prinz’s lighthearted and entertaining teen fiction approach to romance, passion, and friendship that will draw the most readers into this fun story.
Beth Wilcox is a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.
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