Published January 26th 2011 by CreateSpace.
* In compliance with FTC guidelines, it should be noted that I received the book for free.
The year was 1985. Madonna was making waves up and down the Top 40 charts. The Bee Gees were ‘staying alive’. Colin Preston was in his sophomore year at Elerby University; the toughest period in his life.
I remember seeing this book again and again in various giveaways from GoodReads and LibraryThing and I never won it. Until the author directly contacted me and graciously offered to provide a copy of the book for review. I received this book in the mail before my trip to San Francisco (in fact, a trip to San Francisco on a Greyhound bus was mentioned in the book. That was exactly what I did).
Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled is the debut novel of author Bert Murray. It has a big cast of characters that a lot of readers can relate to. As the author said, this is not a YA novel. It’s not an entirely adult contemporary either. Somewhere in between. Having already gone through college, I definitely saw and even went through some of the situations mentioned in the book. And yes, I am old enough to remember what a cassette tape is. If I were a young teen picking this up, I would probably see this as a cautionary tale or “the older kids are crazy” kind of thing.
So Colin falls in love with the most beautiful girl on campus, Jasmine. She’s one of those trust fund babies with one foot stuck in the Age of Aquarius. Colin’s best friend is Karl, Mr. Popular. Among his other friends Big Ty, Mrs. Vesquez and her cat Quixote, Liz, Susan, and my favorite, Chester, the stoner. Things don’t go the way Colin would’ve wanted it and eventually, he uses booze and sex to numb the pain. With a little help from his friends (oh, Beatles!), Colin finds a way to recover and get his life back on track.
The book is split into 3 parts. The first part started off well but it became monotonous with all the “Jasmine issues”. How many people and how many pages does one need to show what the other characters thought of her? The story was progressing well enough without all the filler. The “Jasmine issues” gets carried over to parts 2 and 3. There were parts where I wanted to grab Colin and shake some sense into him. He sure could use some Brokeback Mountain wisdom… “I wish I knew how to quit you.” I did like the conversations between Colin and Mrs. Vesquez. And also with Chester. I think that among all the characters, he had the most layers and I felt that I got to know him the most.
The setting is in the 80s but the music selection is definitely 60s-70s. Mentions of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Doors, The Police, Led Zeppelin… the only thing missing from this book is a mixtape to go with it! There’s even a mention of Hair, one of my favorite musicals. I think Liz, Karl, and I would be best friends music-wise. In fact, I drew a heart beside the songs that I really dug. I just found it so frustratingly fitting that there’s a song to every situation that Colin goes through. It’s as if his tape player knows what Colin is feeling and cues up a song for him. I believe that there are certain songs that stir emotions and memories within us but I found this a bit too convenient.
There are a lot of cliches in this book. Pretty girls, hot guys, betrayals, rebounds, music to fit the mood, sex, beer, expectations. It got predictable after a while. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel a lot. The cover art is really cool; that’s one of the main reasons why I really wanted a hard copy of this book. It’s an easy read and very entertaining. Not just the music, mind you. I am very familiar with Manhattan and it was nice reading about places that I’ve visited myself – Strawberry Fields, Penn Station, Central Park… even Dalton School where Colin spent his high school years (no joke!). I can easily see this as a TV show produced by the CW Network. I’m not sure how a teen male narrator would appeal to audiences but to me, it was very effective.
Recommendation: College kids, no matter where you’re from, can find themselves enjoying this. Also, if you like music from the 60s-70s, you’ll find some familiar tunes mentioned in this book.
Get your copy here.