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The Bad Decisions Playlist Hardcover – August 2, 2016
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The Bad Decision Playlist Playlist
The songs on this playlist are here either because they or the artists are mentioned in the book—or just because I like them and they inspired me while I was writing.
For the entire playlist, visit Spotify.
'Alison' by Elvis Costello
The song that sets the book in motion, the song the protagonist sings—well, attempts to sing—to a girl named Alison and gets clubbed over the head with his mandolin for his efforts. And, by the way, a great song by a fantastic songwriter.
‘Down Down the Deep River’ by Okkervil River
Okkervil River put out a coming-of-age concept album called The Silver Gymnasium, and I love both the sense of place that it has and the way it captures the mystery and magic and difficulty of being a teenager.
‘Kiss Me on the Bus’ by The Replacements
I grew up in Minneapolis, and you can’t have a playlist for a novel that’s about music and is set in Minneapolis without including some Replacements. And it’s such a good song.
‘Cut Your Hair’ by Pavement
A great song about the music scene and about changing yourself in an attempt to change someone else.
‘B a noBody’ by SOAK
“C’mon, c’mon, be just like me / c’mon, c’mon, be a nobody. ..”
Another song that feels like a perfect snapshot of being a teenager. The longing and vulnerability in Bridie Monds-Watson’s voice. ..it crushes me, this song.
‘Caroline’ by Paul Brill
A simple, beautiful song by the very talented Paul Brill, who I’m proud to call a friend.
‘Trampoline’ by Joe Henry
A great song for a difficult talk late at night at a bar, which is how it appears in the book.
‘The Book of Love’ Magnetic Fields
Beautiful. A group of us (led by Paul Brill, whose song 'Caroline' is on this list) sang this for friends at their wedding. Hi, Jeff and Jane!
‘Fireflies’ by Rhett Miller and Rachael Yamagata
Big fan of Rhett Miller’s songwriting and lyrics, both as an independent artist and as the lead singer of the Old 97’s. Love the sad, almost languid back-and-forth duet in this song. It’s also the song that inspires Austin to see what it’s like to lie down on some train tracks, an activity I do not recommend.
'All for Swinging You Around' by The New Pornographers
I listened to the New Pornographers a lot while writing this book.
'The Mortician’s Daughter' by Freedy Johnston
Used to go see Freedy play a lot in small venues in NYC waaay back. A haunting, nostalgic song, a song about remembering a love from long ago.
'Starfishin’ by Amy Correia
Amy Correia is just a fantastic singer-songwriter and should be massively famous. Another person I used to go see perform in NYC way back, and each time it felt special.
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Musically inclined Austin Methune is his own worst enemy. A decidedly lazy stoner, he seems to find motivation only in grandstanding for beautiful girls. Unfortunately for Austin, his attempts to impress have earned him a long history of mishaps, most of which are hilarious. As his junior year winds down and adulthood looms on the horizon, the teen is faced with a series of life-changing events. His longtime single mother is considering marriage to a man Austin despises, and his dead father turns up on his doorstep, a very much alive rock star. Realistically, Austin does not handle these surprises with grace and poise. Over a single summer, the protagonist deals with love, sex, drugs, and fallible parents. Somehow, he manages to mature and put an end to his playlist of bad decisions. This work is rife with funny little interludes and well-developed characters. While the story starts out slow and at times is corny in its lack of believability, persevering readers will be rewarded with a deeper tale about the hairier issues teens confronting adulthood encounter. VERDICT An interesting coming-of-age story. Recommend this to mature teens who enjoyed Jordan Sonnenblick's Notes from the Midnight Driver and Are You Experienced? or Andrew Smith's Winger.—Ellen Fitzgerald, White Oak Library District, Lockport, IL
—School Library Journal
"An infectious read. . . . The key is the amount of heart with which Rubens infuses his characters. They are flawed, authentic, and tragically real. . . .Tailor-made for teen boys and the people who, for better or worse, know them."
"Funny and painful, it’s a sharply etched portrait of fallible human beings living, loving, screwing up, and making do—and a fine look at the Twin Cities music scene."
"A charming, at times brutally funny peek inside a slacker's mind."
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Then the not-so-dead dad, Shane (rock-star-has-been, trying to make a come-back) shows up and OFF WE GO!
There are many things to recommend this book besides the cast of characters. The narrative style in Austin’s voice is cynically humorous as only a clever, lyrically-minded, self-deprecating teenager can be. The convolutions of the plot as Shane draws Austin, the solid gold but sadly negated Josephine, and the abused-son Todd into becoming a fantasy “band” are thoroughly engaging. There is a great deal of poignancy but no real tragedy, and the language and situation, while contemporary, avoid crudity and crassness. Although not everything is resolved in the “Coda”, the overall tone is both hopeful and uplifting. As Shane is quoted as saying, “It’s not too late for you, either.”
Austin lives a life of spontaneity and bad choices. He’s constantly getting himself in trouble and is so recklessly fearless that he gets into the worst situations. He’s headstrong, foolish, and there are definitely times where you’ll want to shake some sense into him because he can be pretty idiotic. Austin is sort of addictive, kind of like rubbernecking when you drive by an accident on a highway. You know it might be something bad, in Austin’s case that he might be doing something ridiculously stupid and pointless, but you have to see. The more Austin throws himself into precarious situations, the more you want to know how he’s going to get out of it alive. It’s crazy, but somehow enthralling. It’s a love-hate relationship with his characters, for sure.
There’s a great balance of comic relief and serious subjects, like parents getting remarried, abuse, relationships, and being reunited with a parent that abandoned you.
The most profound and crushing part of the story is hope vs. reality. Austin has built his father up on a pedestal. He wants to believe in him, he has to. He’s like a musical god to him and everything he does, Austin wants nothing more but approval and praise from the father that left him as a child. The hope, it’s like a puppy staring out a window begging to be loved. It’s heartbreaking, that moment when you’re blindsided by the truth. You ignore what’s in front of you because you want to believe the best in people and then you’re slapped in the face by reality. The greatest lesson is that there’s good and bad in everyone. You will be disappointed in your parents. No one is perfect, and seeing someone’s flaws can help you form a better understanding and relationship with them, or it might not. That’s the harsh reality.
A serious case of instalove that makes hardly any sense. For someone who is so into building a relationship, not letting anyone in until she’s sure, Josephine jumps right on in. It conflicted with her character.
The chemistry was random and muted. Barely visible at all. The awkwardness was something else. There’s so much space between Josephine and Austin, and they’re worlds apart mentally, that it’s pretty shocking that they can stand each other enough to do anything. Austin pretty much moons over her from the moment he met her and it makes ZERO sense.
Austin’s so-called best friend make an appearance once or twice in the entire book. They’re mentioned and then fade out. There’s this kind of fleeting, wishy-washy development for most secondary characters besides Austin, his love interest, and his bully.