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Debbie Harry Sings in French Hardcover – May 27, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080803
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In 1990s Tampa, a week after Johnny's 13th birthday, his father dies in a horrible auto accident, his mother shuts down, and the boy is left to cope for himself. While somehow managing to maintain his grades and pay the bills, he also takes up the goth lifestyle and begins drinking so heavily that by 16 he ends up in a hospital from an accidental overdose. After a stint in rehab where he first hears and falls in love with singer Debbie Harry, Johnny is shipped off to live with his paternal uncle in South Carolina. Bullies at Langley Prep taunt him because they think he is gay, but with his supportive new girlfriend, Maria, and understanding Uncle Sam, Johnny finally realizes that he has more than a fixation on the performer. He wants to sing and dress like her. Maria encourages him to enter a competition as Debbie Harry at a drag club in Atlanta, and his uncle reveals surprising details about his father. With such a problem-heavy novel, at times the book comes close to overpowering the real "problem"—Johnny's transvestism. Still, having a straight, cross-dressing protagonist is groundbreaking YA fiction.—Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Debut author Brothers tackles the topic of teenage transvestism in this ode to ’80s music. After a stint in rehab where the music of Blondie becomes his recovery touchstone, 16-year-old former alcoholic Johnny is sent to live with his uncle to start anew. School bullies call him “faggot,” but eyeliner-wearing Johnny knows he’s not gay because he’s smitten with Maria, a Goth chick who shares his love of ’80s punk. Maria helps him explore his need to cross-dress by encouraging him to enter a drag contest as Debbie Harry, while Johnny’s unconditional love helps her come to terms with past suicidal impulses. With Maria’s support and his family’s gradual acceptance, Johnny learns to proudly embrace his inner Debbie. Though the story takes time to build momentum and the prose occasionally slides into cliché, this compelling and ultimately uplifting novel fills a niche in the growing body of GLBTQ literature for teens. Offer this to groupies of James St. James’ Freak Show (2007), Cecil Castelucci’s Beige (2007), and Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish (2007). Grades 8-12. --Jennifer Hubert

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
Well, I hadn't and I wasn't sure what to expect.
Kristi D.
This is very much a book about a teenager - exploring alcohol, drugs, sex, gender, and listening to lots of music.
Katie H.
He's into music, his girlfriend, and sometimes enjoys dressing like his idol, Blondie singer Debbie Harry.
Brian Katcher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Person on May 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful, one of a kind book-- it is funny and tender and it also rocks! Johnny's voice is so warm, so believable across all his hardships and inner struggles, and Maria is heartbreakingly genuine. The story is fresh, life-affirming, without turning away from sorrow.

The book really captures what it feels like to be in love: not just young love, but deep connection at any age. I read this book on a plane and was both laughing (out loud) and at other times literally wiping tears from my eyes.

The story also celebrates the healing power of music and the way our heroes, however unlikely, can help our true, best self emerge. The writing itself is sensational: easy-going and true.

This is not just another young adult book. It is a wholly moving, terrifically entertaining story about first love, emerging sexuality, and of course Blondie. A+.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NY Music Fan on June 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An engaging, touching, endearing, funny, and beautiful story about the struggle to know oneself. An easy, enjoyable read that makes you laugh out loud and touches you at the same time. I'm terrible at writing reviews, but I just finished this book and felt the need to tell others. Buy it, read it, you won't be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By feralduck VINE VOICE on June 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There's something in everyone that makes us feel distanced from our peers at one time or another. During the teenage years, that distance can be felt most keenly, and mocked fiercely. This novel deals with the feelings of some of those children who pass through the gauntlet of being "different".
Some kids achieve a comfort zone with their individuality; some, unfortunately do not, and end up drugged out, or compromise their principles to fit in, or, in extreme cases, choose to end it all.
This story explores the lives of two such teens, and how they deal with their respective pains and attempt to find a place for themselves in the world is the premise of this sure-handed first novel.
Geared for the teen audience, the book does not dumb down the language, nor preach homilies; instead, it speaks clearly to all teens who question those things that make them who they are, especially if those things fall outside the "norm" of what society tolerates.
A very promising start from an author I hope we hear much more from.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N., The BookBandit on February 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"I know a girl from a lonely street, cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes Sunday girl, Hey, I saw your guy with a different girl, looks like he's in another world, run and hide Sunday girl [...]" Lyrics from "Sunday Girl" by Blondie

To say Johnny has had a tough life is an understatement. Immediately following his 13th birthday his father dies, and mother mentally checks out leaving Johnny responsible for everything. But it proves to be too much, and like his mother, Johnny too wants to check out. Taking on a new goth lifestyle is more than just a wardrobe change - it's a lifestyle change.
And for a very young Johnny a big part of that change is drowning himself in alcohol. But now he's sixteen - he's a full-fledged alcoholic and suddenly finds himself in hospital due to an accidental overdose. The biggest change Johnny faces is how to survive life rehab. But with the help of Debbie Harry and new girlfriend Maria, Johnny's channels his inner Debbie but where does his new-found beauty and courage lead him?

Getting off to a slower start that most YA novels, Debbie Harry Sings in French is Meagan Brothers' first novel - and it's a roller coaster of ups and downs that the reader's experience right alongside Johnny. The book is well written and offers readers an array of in-depth characters. Each character featured within the pages lend a better understanding as to who Johnny is while telling their own unique stories.

It's rare to stumble upon a book like this. Debbie Harry Sings in French isn't just Johnny's story of grown and transformation. It's a story that any person can relate to. And at its core it's a book centered around the human condition and relationships - between friends, family, lovers, and even music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on July 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Johnny has had a bit of a tough life so far and he has always been somewhat of a freak. When he was younger, his father died and his mother completely fell apart. Johnny had to learn how to pay the bills and practically take care of the both of them. When Johnny ended up falling into the Goth scene, his mother somehow came out of her funk and became all concerned for Johnny. All Johnny wants to do is party with his friends and drink. But, one night at a club, this girl gives him some sort of drug when all he wanted was an aspirin - and he ends up in the hospital from a drug overdose.

Of course, after the overdose, his mother sends him to rehab, and while there Johnny discovers Debbie Harry of Blondie singing in French. He is immediately taken aback. Debbie's voice blows him away, and it doesn't hurt that she's a complete bombshell.

After Johnny gets back from rehab, things are a bit weird between him and his mother. His mom can't handle it, so she sends him away to live with his Uncle Sam and his daughter, Bug, in South Carolina. Johnny is flaming angry at first, but once there realizes that his Uncle is pretty great and Bug is an awesome little kid. And of course, there's Maria Costello (as in Elvis). She's an interesting girl who Johnny takes a liking to pretty quickly. When Maria discovers Johnny's love of Debbie, and that secretly Johnny wants to be like her, she buys this dress that looks like one of Debbie's and tells Johnny about a drag contest in New York. At first Johnny doesn't know whether she's serious or if she's making fun of him.
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