Ballads of Suburbia
About the book
There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence. Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . . Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives.
Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.
What the reviewers are saying
"....an intensely real and painfully honest novel of high-school anxiety." and "....Kuehnert nails the raw vulnerability of teendom and delivers a hard-hitting and mesmerizing read." - Booklist "Like an American Beauty for the teen set." - NewCity "With her first two novels, Kuehnert has created vivid pictures of teenage lives that lie in that borderland that abuts adulthood. It is a fertile, confusing and intense place, and Kuehnert never holds back. But like a good ballad, she keeps the stories taut and precise, with a touch of heart thrown in for good measure." - Chicago Sun-Times "This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days. Yes, haunting me." - The Story Siren, 5 star review, Recipient of the Luminous Pearl Award
I asked, Stephanie answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you used it, in any way, in a book?
S. The day after Christmas in 2004, I was driving home to Chicago from Wisconsin. I’ve had lots of scary drives to and from Wisconsin in snowstorms, tornados or late at night. This time the weather was fine, really cold, but fine and actually traffic was at a standstill. We’d just gone through a toll and were merging onto the expressway. I was stopped with a car in front of me and a car beside me and all of a sudden this semi truck just comes plowing into my lane, into my car and I have nowhere to go! I’m stuck in the car listening to it crunch, thinking he is never going to stop, doesn’t he know he’s hitting me? It probably only lasted a few seconds, but it really was the scariest moment of my life because I thought I was going to be completely crushed! I still don’t drive on the highway after that. I haven’t used it in a story… yet.
A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
S. I’m horribly afraid of spiders and really anything with more than four legs, but especially spiders and these big centipedes we get in our area!
A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
S. Dennis Lehane. I absolutely loved reading Mystic River and loved the Shakespearian elements he brought to it. I enjoyed the movie too and his other books. As a kid, I adored reading Nancy Drew and also the Cat Who mysteries.
A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
S. My book starts out with the main character, Kara, returning home four years after a near-fatal heroin overdoes. The question that the book asks is what happened in a period of a couple years to send Kara and her friends, who were a little out of a place and little lonely, but smart, creative kids, down this path of self-destruction?
A. Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure out?
Oh there are many. Life wouldn’t be interesting if all the mysteries were solved! One of the mysteries that has always plagued me though is where do all the shoes on the side of the road come from? Don’t people notice that they only have one shoe?