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October 29, 2010

Book Notes - Steve Brezenoff ("The Absolute Value of -1")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

When I read the Minnesota Reads review of Steve Brezenoff's new young adult novel, The Absolute Value of -1, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the Book Notes series.

The novel is told through his teen characters' four voices, and each rings true as they recount experiences from their own perspectives. Dealing with real life issues, the book is both gritty and filled with teenage angst, but also filled with surprising humor. Well-written and captivating, The Absolute Value of -1 is one of the year's finest young adult novels.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Each of the three teenagers has a turn at first-person narration, revisiting the same scenario from different perspectives. Brezenoff nicely differentiates their voices and personalities, even while their narratives are bound together by the frustrations, self-doubt (and hatred), and pain they share."

In his own words, here is Steve Brezenoff's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The Absolute Value of -1:

Four narrators tell slightly different versions of the story in The Absolute Value of -1. Each narrator has a distinct style, so each has a different play list. When I wrote the various voices, I relied on music to kick-start the vibe change that had to happen in my head to get things sounding right. What follows is a selection or two from each of their play lists, with a little explanation or analysis or whatever strikes me about each song.

Lily Feinstein

"Paperdoll" Kittie

Among metal dudes I've known, Kittie was always something of a joke, and in |-1| we're never entirely certain how seriously Simon and Noah take the band, even though Simon put the CD into Lily's hands in the first place.

Lily's playlist is predominantly Kittie's debut album, SPIT, so this is purely a representational choice, though appropriate, lyrics-wise. The women of Kittie were right around 15 when their debut was released--Lily's age. Lily should have been as angry as Kittie, I think, and maybe when her narration closes she's bubbling pretty hard toward finally being seriously pissed off. The debut Kittie CD will probably be just the medicine she needs.

"I Won't Share You" by the Smiths

Lily wouldn't be caught dead listening to the Smiths, but few songs capture her tired-eyed and hopeful depression like this one: those melancholy "ooh ooh ooh's" that precede the chorus; " life sick and cruel instead? (Yes) No no no no no no no no no no"; and of course the implicit jealousy in the title itself.

Noah da Stonah

"Judgment Night" Onyx and Biohazard

Here's how you make Biohazard scarier: add Onyx. I always wondered how the feck these guys--all these guys--seemed to smoke so much weed and stay so damn angry. Then I wrote Noah. I think he knows.

"Passin' Me By" The Pharcyde

More weed, naturally--this song just a little, but this LP is crazy full of the stuff--but more to the point, this is the hip-hop theme song for unrequited love. On a personal note, FatLip's section--the last section--is my favorite rap ever. He evokes King Pleasure. It's pure genius.

Simon Fisher

"He Feels Bad" Helmet

Like Kittie is to Lily, so Helmet's Meantime is to Simon--his theme CD. "He Feels Bad" is mentioned by name and hummed on a longish walk by Simon, so it's an appropriate choice. I don't know what these lyrics mean, but they have this overarching thing about guilt happening, which is obvious from the title, but also the sense that whatever "he feels bad" about, he plans to keep doing it. Perfect for this boy.

"Hearts Alive" Mastodon

Leviathan is one of the best metal albums of all time, and Simon certainly knows that. The album has odd time signatures, violently thumping bass lines, thrash to sludge speed shifts, intricate dual guitar lines, screaming vocals and lush balladeering; add to that its over-arching literary theme (the album is an interpretation of Moby Dick), and its perfect for Simon. "Hearts Alive" is the album's 13-minute, epic masterpiece.

Suzanne Fisher

"A Love Supreme" John Coltrane

Suzanne has outgrown the metal of her high school days, and, deep into college life, she's now deep into some very college music, including the drug-induced, free and modal jazz of Trane. I don't know what love he was talking about--I always assumed it was something deeply spiritual or religious--but with Suzanne, it's probably about family.

Steve Brezenoff and The Absolute Value of -1 links:

the author's website
the author's blog
video trailer for the book

The Book Scout review
Escape Through the Pages review
A Fanatic's Book Blog review
A Good Addiction review
The Hiding Post review
I'm Booking It review
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf review
Lost for Words review
Minnesota Reads review
Obsessed! review
ReaderGirls review
Smitten with Books review
Stacked review
Stiletto Storytime review

The Book Scout interview with the author
Edited to Within an Inch of my Life interview with the author
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf interview with the author
Lost for Words guest post by the author
Minnesota Reads interview with the author
Mud, Mambas, and Mushrooms interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists