Sunday, October 10, 2010

EBook Review: Daron's Guitar Chronicles Volume 1

Daron's Guitar Chronicles Volume 1 is the first 40 chapters of an enormous body of work by the same name that has been released regularly now as a web serial at I confess to being a less than religious reader of the serial there. Daron was just the right age on 1986 to have been an older sibling or cousin of mine, the kind whose room I would sneak into at night to steal his cassettes and dub them so that I could listen to whatever he thought was cool and be just like him.

I love getting the whole immersive experience, so I will occasionally take a break from my regular reading or writing and take in a whole chunk of chapters at once, being sure to click on all the youtube links so that I can be musically transported back to the 80s of my tweendom while I read. When I saw that they first 40 were available in ebook format (and for FREE too!) I just HAD to have a copy, but found myself missing the accompaniment. (Each chapter is the title of the song, and in the web serial there is a Youtube link to them. This is obviously not the case for the ebook!)

I found a way to fix that problem, though. See, I put all those chapter titles in a playlist, so that I could timetravel back to the 80s while I watch it unfold in the story. You can't honestly tell me you're surprised at this.

Ebook Review: Daron's Guitar Chronicles Volume 1

The strength of Cecilia Tan's fiction has always been her characters. She can write delightfully wicked villains that you can't help but love to hate. She can pen a cad with the best of them. But in my opinion, she shines the brightest when her she writes a character who is simply heartwrenchingly sweet, especially when that character seems to hope beyond hope that this wasn't true of them.

The protagonist of this story is one of those characters. Rock guitarists are supposed to be thick-skinned and effortlessly charming cads. Daron isn't this at all: Daron is...well, he's real. It's 1986 and Daron isn't even 20 yet and he's already well on his way to being a future rock god. Unfortunately instead of being a womanizing sweet-talker he's an averagely awkward 19-year old who just happens to be gay (even though he can't even bring himself to say the word.) He doesn't know anything yet about who he really is, or what he needs in a partner, or even if he wants a partner at all. All he knows is that in his business “faggy,” “queer,” and “gay” are the most viciously insulting words there are.

There is a fantastic scene early on the in the book in which Daron is walking around the East Village in NYC with Carynne, a girl his age who is desperately trying to sleep with him while he is desperately trying to come up with excuses not to without confessing that he's gay:

***I kept my own eyes ahead, trying not to stare at the graffiti splashed across the steps ("Queer By Choice") trying not to hear the conversation of the two men coming the other way, trying to shut it all out. My hands felt damp as they brushed against my jeans. Everything here was a signal, a secret handshake, a subliminal image, and I wondered how long it would take Carynne to see right through me. What would I do that would give myself away? Even I had no way of knowing.***

The author does a fantastic job throughout the book of generating empathy for her lead character without provoking pity. We as readers can feel his hurt and his confusion, and share his victories and regrets. Being gay is an integral part of who Daron is, but Ms Tan doesn't fall into the trap of allowing his sexuality to become his identity entire. He is a well-rounded sympathetic and delightful character in a charming, at times poignantly sad but always engaging book. Rock on, Daron, rock on!

Rating: 5/5 Happy Rainbow Flags!

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