“The Love Song of Jonny Valentine”, by Teddy Wayne, follows Jonathan Valentino, a midwestern kid turned adolescent pop star, bringing us into the underworld of fame and gloss. Through candid narrative, we learn of Jonny’s complicated relationship with his mother and manager, whom he calls Jane, and his missing father. Jonny is raw and honest for an eleven- year old, the trials of the music industry making him wiser and more cynical than any other kid would be at his age.
Over the course of the book, Jonny plays a video game called Zenon in between sound checks, bonding with his bodyguard, and finding out his mother’s secrets. This video game is an underlying source of fuel for the book, reflecting Jonny’s insecurities and inner turmoil. Towards the end, he finally conquers the last level, the victory coinciding with his triumph over the questions plaguing him throughout the book. This addition by Teddy Wayne is a great juxtaposition of our protagonist’s eleven-year old identity in a world of competing adults.
Jonny’s introspective thoughts on the world happening around him parallel his juvenile expectations of romance and affection towards his often overbearing mother. The inner dialogue is articulated so as to give us a balanced view into the evolving heart and mind of a kid growing up a kingpin of pop culture.
Teddy Wayne brings us an unexpected perspective into the personal life of someone navigating both the glory and the feeding frenzy of fame. Jonny’s character is multi-dimensional, propelled by his understanding of his position in society and his somewhat naive quest for affection. “The Love Song of Johnny Valentine” is a page turner for the civilian, giving a glimpse into the cause and effect of celebrity.