Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plot Summary:
Johnny is not a stranger to heart break. At thirteen, his father was killed in a car accident and his mother drowned her sorrows in sleeping pills and Gin. In order to keep a roof over their heads, and food in their stomachs, Johnny had to become the "man" of the house and take over for his emotionally distraught mother. Now that he is sixteen, Johnny has one thing he never thought he would have: a drinking problem. In order to get away from his awful existence, Johnny drinks and drinks. The fond memories of his time with his "babysitter," Tessa, are what keep his somewhat sane and addicted to music. Other than that, Johnny does what he can to carve his place in the world, which is somewhere between the wall and the wallpaper to escape his former zombified mother. As much as he enjoys his solitude, Johnny does have one friend whom he can partake with named Terry. If Johnny is messed up, Terry is a train wreck. Although Johnny is struggling to find his place, his world changed when he woke up in the hospital after mistakenly taking pills that he thought were Aspirin. After being sent to rehab, Johnny's discovered the brilliance of Blondie and when he heard Debbie Harris sing in French was literally love at first sound. When he was released, nothing was the same and things got weirder when his mom shipped him off to his uncle's in South Carolina. Although he was expecting the worse, living with his uncle and cousin isn't that bad, especially when he meets Maria. For Johnny, life may actually get better, but when he decides he wants to be Debbie Harry, things between him and Maria, and his classmates, is going to leave on fabulous mess.

Critical Evaluation:
In this relatively short story, one teen loses everything only to gain so much more. After the death of his father, Johnny, and his mother, fell apart. When his mother finally got it together, Johnny was an alcoholic. Unfortunately, when we lose a loved one, some people aren't able to deal with the loss and they hide from everything and everyone. In Johnny's case, he had to become the adult to make sure that he and his mom had a roof over their head and food on the table. However, while his mother was sulking, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol. Obviously, it wasn't anyone's fault that this happened, but, in reality stuff like this does. The only way Johnny could cope was to self-medicate, which led him to a party that landed him in the ER, Fortunately, Johnny found a much safer alternative to deal with his problems by listening to Blondie. What's interesting about this particular story is that Johnny has been constantly looking for himself and it seems that he isn't satisfied with just Johnny. When he heard Debbie Harry sing in French he was just amazed, entranced, and mesmerized. Not only was she gorgeous, her voice made her special and different. Johnnie has always wanted to be and feel special so he used clothing, make-up, and radical hair styles to show everyone that he is someone different. Although most teens experiments with fads, especially fashion fads, they are trying to demonstrate their autonomy, but, at the same time, find that place where they feel comfortable in their own skin. For Johnny, he felt that if he somehow became Debbie Harry, he would feel wonderful and perfect. As the story unfolds, a lot of secrets will be revealed, which will not only settle the animosity between Johnny and his mother, but allow him the opportunity to stand up for himself and have the courage to believe in himself. 

Information about the Author:
According to her publisher's website:
Meagan Brothers is the author of the young adult novels Supergirl Mixtapes, which was a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nomination, and Debbie Harry Sings in French, which was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, won a GLBT Round Table ALA Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. A native Carolinian, Meagan currently lives in New York City. 
Teen  LBGTQ Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Debbie Harry Sings in French:
Awards & Recognition:
Review Quotes from

"Will keep readers fully engaged." — Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"Tightly woven writing." - Kirkus
"An easy recommendation for reluctant readers." — Booklist
"Will hit home with many teens struggling to find their identity." — Kliatt
"A unique exploration of how trauma can change someone - and an inspiring message of how an individual has some say in the world." — ElleGirl

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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