Here I bring you my latest review, something pretty different for me, but one more discovery from Rosie’s Books Review Team.
A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld
BEST BC BOOKS of 2020—Grant Lawrence, Award-winning author & CBC personality
ONE OF THE GREAT ROCK & ROLL STORIES—Eric Alper, Sirius XM host and music critic
A rock star. A runaway. The most unexpected journey.
Adrian ‘Jazzer’ Johnson’s gilded rock and roll career is the stuff of legend. From out of the dive bars of Long Beach, this high school dropout rocketed his band to the pinnacle of success. But after a whirlwind decade ended with him broken and questioning, Adrian disappeared.
Now back on tour after a year in exile, Adrian’s still struggling and under pressure to deliver his next hit. The last thing he needs is to find a teen runaway hiding in his tour bus. As it turns out, Hastings Sinclair is a synesthete who can see music in color. But her offer to help color-blind Adrian unpack his creative block upends their lives in ways they never imagined.
Because Adrian’s troubles run deep—beyond what any song can fix—and Hastings hasn’t been upfront about hers. When calamity strikes, a perfect storm of fates unleashes and caught in the crossfire are Adrian’s band mates, a fame-shy beauty he falls hard for, and a scheming journalist with a vendetta. With everything he values suddenly on the line, can Adrian reconcile his own brash history? Or will he be forced to face the music in a way he never has before?
About the author:
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Andréa is an author and award-winning TV producer who has delivered more than 200 commercials, series and movies for Fortune 500 companies, global networks and the world’s biggest brands.
Her debut novel COMPLETION is being adapted for television.
A RAINBOW LIKE YOU is her second novel. Five weeks after publication, it was named a Best BC Book of 2020 and has been featured on NPR, Sirius XM, Hawaii News, CBC, The Vancouver Sun, The Province and many more.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel, which I freely chose to review.
This is my first experience reading this author’s work, although it is evident that she is no newcomer to the world of writing, even if this is only her second published novel.
This is not a mystery novel, so I’m not sure spoilers, as such, apply, but I still think the official description includes sufficient information to give prospective readers a good sense of what it is about. I’m not a big reader of pop, rock, or music fiction in general (I read Daisy Jones & The Six some time ago and loved it, but the setting and the narrative style are very different), and it is not a world I’m particularly close to. I’m not a big reader of romance either, and yes, there is a romantic story as well (or more than one: Adrian, the protagonist, is trying to recover from a breakup, a pretty devastating one, and during the novel he meets somebody) and one that is pretty close to insta-love (not a favourite of mine either), but despite all that, I enjoyed this novel, perhaps because it is about more than that, although both elements play a big part in the book. For me, the novel falls under what I’ve come to think of as “adult coming-of-age” stories, or perhaps “growing-up” stories, those where characters —who are grown-up when it comes to their chronological age but perhaps don’t act accordingly— usually get confronted by something (a personal tragedy and/or a person they come across) that makes them take a good look at themselves, and they come out of it a different (and usually better) person. In this case, Adrian was driven by music from a very early age, left high school and focused all his efforts on that, becoming the leader of an incredibly successful rock band. He also married young and seemed to have everything, but that is not the whole picture. When we meet him, he is far from happy, and although he is touring with the band, there are many problems brewing, both in his personal and his professional life: with members of the band demanding more of a saying in what happens; divorced from his wife after a pretty traumatic even; he recently and suddenly lost his mother also and hasn’t recovered from that; his relationship with his father seems broken beyond repair; he got into trouble with alcohol during a twelve month period in Mexico (and he doesn’t seem to be over that yet); and he seems to be at a creative standstill, totally unable to write new songs. And then, he finds Hastings, a teenage girl who has run away from her foster parents’ home and is hiding in his bus. And yes, you’ve guessed it, this encounter (and a woman she meets later on) will change his life.
I have talked about Adrian, who is not only the protagonist but also the narrator of the story, which is written in the first-person (so people who dislike first-person narration have been warned). Apart from what I’ve mentioned, he comes with other quirks: he is colour blind (that makes for a great contrast with Hastings, who has synaesthesia, or, to be more precise, chromaesthesia, whereby she perceives colours, in her case when she hears music), has some obsessive personality traits and a fear of contamination (he talks about his OCD, but it’s never clear that he has seen anybody or been given a formal diagnosis, and as a psychiatrist, the description of his behaviours would not warrant it), and can be totally lacking in insight as to his own behaviour and motivations. He drinks too much; he doesn’t listen to anything that he perceives as criticism and gets very defensive when taken to task, and seems unable to let go, forgive, or forget. He is an interesting character, because he is flawed and is forever trying not to be the typical rock star who misbehaves constantly, although he doesn’t always manage, and he is far from consistent. The other members of the band are quite diverse, and are like a family to him, friends and brothers, as most of the people he knows and connects with seem to belong to the same world or be part of his entourage (the security man, his agent, the owners of the music company, the bus driver…). We only get to meet the rest of the people from his perspective, and he is not always a good judge of character. They add to the background of the story, but I wasn’t sure any of them came to life as individuals for me, apart from Hasting (and Sasha-Rae, although less so). Hastings, though, is wonderful, a unique creation, and one of those characters that you read about and you wish were real and you could meet. She is very special, and I won’t say a lot more about her not to ruin the novel, as she hides quite a few things that help make her who she is (and affect the novel’s course as well). There is a pretty nasty reporter as well, but you’ll be happy to hear that she gets her comeuppance (in one of my favourite scenes from the book).
I’m not always convinced by first-person narratives, although I’m not against them per-se, and in this case, I think it works pretty well, because we need to understand the character and see things from his perspective, even if we have nothing in common with him and might never have done the things he does —he has a talent for making the wrong decision—, and although I have talked about his lack of insight, he is not an unreliable narrator. He calls things as he sees them, and we can make our own minds up about them, without tricks. I enjoyed the style of writing, and the use of similes and metaphors work very well to give readers a quick insight into Adrian’s opinion of people and places. The protagonist is not called ‘Jazzer’ for nothing, and his voice comes across quite clearly, with very funny moments, and some very touching ones as well (yes, be prepared for tears).
Here, a few random examples of my highlights:
“Ex was the equivalent of eight elephants when it came to not forgetting.”
“With the door peeled open, she cowered deeper into the closet, like a vampire avoiding the sun… if vampires were black girls … who wore headbands and jeans.”
“The real estate of her features reminded me of Nina Simone: the nose of a boxer, swollen from one too many hits; a generous mouth better suited to a larger face.”
“Sven, our tour manager, arrived with breakfast. Imagine a Swedish version of The Rock, minus any charisma, and that’s our Svennie.”
I’ve referred to the ending before (yes, a bad character gets her comeuppance), and the romance part of the story ends up like a romance should. I’ve also referred to this as a growing-up story, so you probably guess that the character learns a lot about himself. That’s also true. But be warned that the lesson is a hard one. Although it is an inspiring story and feel-good story overall, there are sad moments, and I’ve pre-warned you that there might be tears (or moments pretty close to).
Any warnings? I’ve mentioned use of alcohol, and there are plenty of references to drug use, some violence, sex (there is more talk than anything, and there is nothing too explicit, but yes, there is some, and at least one of the scenes and a minor plot-point I felt didn’t add much to the story, but that’s my personal opinion), also upsetting events referred to, and chronic illness that also features (the author does a good job in her acknowledgements at providing extra information and resources to people who might want to know more about some of the topics). Although I felt the story might be suited to new adult readers as well, they need to be aware of those issues, as should the rest of readers.
In summary, this is not one of my usual genres, but I’d recommend it to people who enjoy reading about the music business (rock bands in particular. The author explains in her acknowledgements her process of research, and she definitely did a good job), who like first-person narratives, who enjoy unique characters, and/or are looking for a story of growing-up, redemption, and a hopeful and feel-good read. There is fun, laughter, tears, and heartache, but there’s a rainbow at the end. (The book includes quite a lot of extra materials, like the covers of the band records, illustrations/pics of the members of the band, and even a link to listen to the song that shares its title with the book. They are all worth a look and a listen).
Oh, in case you want to listen to the song…
Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team, thanks to the author for her book, and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to keep smiling, keep reading, comment if you like, and please, please, keep safe.