Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company BYR
Publication Date: April 24th, 2012

After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.

But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies. 
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I was drawn to this book because the cover and title made me think of my Jr. High days.  Like most girls, my middle school experience was full of ups and downs, and music (especially mixtapes) played a big part.  I didn't know what this book was about, but the fact that it triggered memories (good and bad) from so long ago made me want to read it.  It wasn't at all what I expected, and I had no idea I would connect to it the way I did.  This review is one that has been one of my most challenging to write, and I had to sit on it for over a month before I could properly form my thoughts...

This book takes place in the mid-1990s and I wholeheartedly related to so many of the pop-culture references.  I graduated high school in 1994 and I remember the tears my friends and I shared when Kurt Cobain took his life; I remember the Doc Martens, baggy jnco jeans, flannel shirts, the music, all of it... I grew up in Upstate NY and it was common for us to go down to The City for the weekend to hang out in the Village where all the coolest people hung out.  These are common experiences I shared with many teens my age, at that time.  For that reason, I think there are a lot of readers my age who would relate to, and enjoy this book.  I related to it on that level, but on a deeper level as well.  Maria's mom is a self-absorbed addict; a woman who wants to give a shit about her daughter, loves her daughter unconditionally, but doesn't want to be a PARENT to her because that would require putting another person's needs ahead of her own.  Instead she tries to be a "friend", which is the last thing Maria really wants or needs from her.  We could name Maria's mom "Michelle" and she would be my mom.  Like Maria, I thought I would be happier if I lived with my "cool" mom.  I wanted to know her better, she had fewer rules (actually, she had no rules) than my dad, she had great taste in music and clothes, liked to party, and had a cool, younger musician boyfriend.  She was an artist, she wrote poetry, she was the picture of freedom.  I kid you not, I could have written parts of this book from my own life experiences, so reading it kind of gutted me in a way.  This book made me realize that there are people everywhere who have mothers who should probably never have been mothers.  Those people will get a lot from this book.  Maria is a wonderful, misguided girl; she learns a lot of valuable lessons over the course of this story, and I hope that they carry her on to a happy well-adjusted adulthood despite what she went through.  She is so real- imperfect, impressionable, naive, and eager to please- my heart ached for her as I saw her making many of the same mistakes I made at her age, often blaming herself for her mother's mistakes, always trying to be the responsible adult because her mother wasn't going to be.  It was nice to find a kindred spirit, even all these years later, and even if she is fictional.  This is a touching story that I won't soon forget.

So I gave it five stars, right?  Unfortunately, I couldn't, and here's why... I did love this story, but it was because of my own deeply personal feelings toward it.  When I review books, I try to think of the "typical" YA reader, and this isn't a book that would come to mind.  It will have a niche, but most teens are not going to relate to the protagonist, are not going to understand a lot of the pop-culture references, and are going to be hard pressed to care about what is going on in this story.  Add to that the fact that the object of Maria's affection is not some hottie, but a chubby, rather dorky guy, and I just don't see it.  Honestly, I think this book would be better marketed to 30-somethings who remember being a teen during the time period this story takes place.  It's almost as if the reader needs the benefit of those extra 10-15 years of life experience to GET this book.  If I were reviewing it for them, I would say 5-stars in a heartbeat, but for the YA market, its appeal is way too narrow.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There's language, sex, drug use, and teen rebellion.  There are definitely mature themes here.  I would say this book is for high school aged students and up (grades 9 and up, ages 14+), but as I mentioned before, I really see this as more of an adult novel, not for content, per se, but because I don't think the average teen is going to relate as well.


  1. I appreciate that you try to relate the book to the typical teen. This is hard to do. I struggle with it too. Thanks for the excellent insight.

  2. I totally get what you're saying here. It sounds like something 20 something's who grew up in the 90s would enjoy. And I know there are a lot of people in that age range that read YA but they're not actual teens. Which makes me think when is it YA and when is it not?


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