Clementine's Reviews > Somebody Everybody Listens To

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee
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Feb 03, 11

bookshelves: 2011, fiction, ya
Read from January 28 to 31, 2011

Retta Lee Jones has always wanted to be a singer. When she graduates high school, she hightails it out of her tiny town of Starling and heads to Nashville, Tennessee, where she has a chance to become a singer and have people sit up and take notice. But Nashville is a town that chews up and spits out girls like Retta, and she has to figure out how to navigate the music business while also dealing with her parents’ crumbling marriage and the shock of independence that comes with moving away from home. With the help of a few friends, both old and new, Retta might just make it in the big city.

Supplee’s novel is a quiet, sweet coming-of-age story. In it, Retta explores what it means to take an extreme risk and not know if it will pay off. The uncertainty of youth and new independence is deeper for Retta simply because she dives into Nashville with no plan, almost no money, and nowhere to stay. Supplee is a good writer who keeps her prose pretty simple. She’s managed to craft a heroine in Retta who’s fairly unremarkable (with the exception of her voice), and in that, she’s created an everygirl that many readers will be able to relate to. The supporting cast of characters have varying levels of success in breaking out of flat stereotypes, but kind tow-truck driver Ricky manages to be both sweet and funny.

Also worth noting about the structure of the book is the facts about actual country music legends placed at the start of every chapter. As a fan of music but not particularly well-versed in the country music scene, these tidbits were both interesting and fun to connect to what Retta was experiencing herself as she tried to become a singer in Nashville. Retta’s love for country music as well as her admiration for the great singer of the genre was intensified by these factoids.

Although the book is absolutely enjoyable and Retta’s journey is compelling, I wish I had felt a stronger connection to her and to the other people in her life. I felt like there could have been stronger characterization all around, and because that was lacking, so was my emotional connection to what was happening. Her best friend felt like a stock character, her mother seemed selfish and one-dimensional, and even her father didn’t garner sympathy from me so much as a faint annoyance. Retta’s decision to move to Nashville wasn’t surprising to me, but her decision to do with with so little planning was. We’re told, early on in the book, that she’s dreamed of getting out of Starling and moving to Nashville for most of her life. This is confusing when we realize that she hasn’t thought it through or planned at all, and I can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t addressed more thoroughly in the book.

Some readers will take issue with this fly-by-the-seat of your pants approach to her life, but other readers will take pleasure in experiencing the ups and downs with Retta. Despite my few misgivings about the book, I still enjoyed this story very much and am planning on reading Supplee’s Artichoke’s Heart as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.
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01/28/2011 page 50
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