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Ballads of Suburbia

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,077 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
An aspiring film writer tells about her troubled teen years in the Chicago suburbs when she and her friends tried to escape the pain of their lives through rock music and drugs.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 21st 2009 by MTV Books (first published July 15th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days, yes haunting me. After I finished, I couldn't help but sit there in a daze. The first thing that popped into my head was "WOW." Granted my emotions were in complete chaos. This isn't a novel for the faint hearted. This novel is moving, it's upsetting, it's heartbreaking, it's real.

Had I read this before I met Stephanie at ALA, I would have most likely hugged her and cried. She has an amazing talent. AMAZING. Even though I haven't experienced
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, 2011-reads, new-adult
4.5 stars

Man, it's just effed up. I cried like twice.
I've had a copy of this book for almost a year now, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I've never done drugs and I don't drink; however, I'm surprised how I felt like I could relate to some of these characters in a way. And I think that there is something that everyone can relate to in these characters. Stephanie Kuehnert did such a great job on them and their stories.
Ballads of Suburbia is filled with friendships, anger, sadness
Aly (Fantasy4eva)
Kara has returned to Oak Park to confront those she walked away from after overdosing. She wanted a new fresh start, but in order for that to happen, maybe she needs to face those that were a part of her life, one last time.

To be honest, as I read along, I thought to myself, that I really don't think I have ever come across more fucked up characters. I'm being honest here. I mean, they were so reckless and self - destructive that I found it emotionally draining and too painful to just witness.
Melissa Marr
May 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've read & LOVED both of Kuehnert's books. No sugarcoating. No BS. She writes beautiful terrible truths.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-favorites
Ballads of Suburbia has me feeling exactly as I did after How To Kill A Rock Star, as in geez.. do I hate it or I love it? I was sucked in that’s for sure. Kara’s story is depressing and sad; the all of those others around her were equally so. One would think that stories such as the ones found here have been done to death already. Starting with the ordinary day to day of family drama, moving on teenage angst of being friendless and placeless, then the getting out of one’s shell, to finding one’ ...more

Okay, this is a tough one.

Because, you see, the thing is, Ballads of Suburbia is a great book for a certain person.

I'm just not that person.

It sounds like a nice way of breaking up with someone, but it's true: Ballads of Suburbia really is an amazing, searing book for those of you out there. It's one of those odd books that I couldn't get away from the acknow
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Jaglvr for

Ms. Kuehnert has written another powerful and hard-hitting novel to follow up her stunning debut, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

Kara is friendless when her BFF Stacey has to move to another less expensive suburb of Chicago. So when new girl Maya enters Chemistry class and sits down beside her, she's excited to see a kindred soul. Soon the two take to hanging out after school in Scoville Park. Maya is everything Kara isn't, first and foremost outgoing. Maya ju
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All young adults, and those adults who are still young at heart
It's truly amazing that any of us survive our teen years.

I really liked Stephanie's first book:I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, so when she came out with this one, I knew I was going to have to read it.

I'm really glad I did because she deals with a lot of young adult issues that don't really get talked about, until it's too late: drugs, addiction, overdoses, death, suicide, cutting, pregnancy, abusive/controlling relationships,rumors and backstabbing. These are the dark tales/ballads of what a lot
Mrs. Europaea
Sep 29, 2017 rated it liked it
A decade ago I know my opinion of this book would have been much different. Now that I'm older and jaded and cranky I just feel like this was a repetitive mess of a wannabe punk scene with no real insights, descriptions or development.

Kara is an awkward MC that barely grows through almost 400 pages. As a recovering addict I could relate to the drink, get high, screw around, repeat factor and for that there was some realism however, it does not make for a stimulating read and sadly, that is what
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Ballads of Suburbia is a novel not for the faint of heart. It’s upsetting, haunting but also incredibly beautiful. Before I started this novel, I admit I was a little leery of it. I was afraid I’d begin reading and feel judgmental toward the characters and turned off by the drug use. While this was not an easy novel to dive into and at times really choked up, I never felt like I didn’t want to continue reading. The end, while sad, was also uplifting and inspirational. Any writer who can take a b ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ballads of Suburbia was really well-written, nostalgic and vividly-descriptive of the flawed suburban environment and lifestyle.
Sonia Reppe
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who did drugs in Scoville Park
I wanted to read this because it's about teenagers in the early 90's in Oak Park, IL, my hometown, where I went to high school in the early 90's so...I thought I would enjoy the references to Oak Park, which I did...and I have to say that was the best thing about the book for me.

Kuehnert's protagonist, Kara, is rebellious, delinquent and does drugs: basically she's messed up. She cuts herself— which Kuehnert admits to doing in her school days— and she hangs out in Scoville park, getting high. I
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
OK, I know what you're thinking...a book about a girl who came of age in '90s Chicago suburbia and went to school to become a screenwriter. Do I just love this book because I can relate?

Actually, I expected to hate this book. I'm very protective of my childhood/teen memories, and it also just seemed all too edgy, romanticized, and unrealistic in all the descriptions I read of parties, drugs, and punk rock. Little did I expect to become so absorbed that I'd read it almost all in a couple of sitti
Laura (Booksforbreakfast)
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book about twenty minutes ago and absolutely needed to write a review before I went to bed! After I finished this one, I just sat there staring off into space and just digesting what went on through the novel. It was truly wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, I felt for everyone. Stephanie Kuehnert has such a distinct writing style that makes each of her characters, no matter how minuscule their parts may seem, have such a personality.

I recommend this book to anyone
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Dylan by: Melissa
Wow. This book is one of the best and darkest realistic YA books I've ever read. Real, raw, and beautiful.
Audrey (holes In My brain)
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ballads of Suburbia is about Kara, who returns to Oak Park after a heroin overdose four years prior. She tells the story, or 'ballad' of her high school years (up to junior year) where she was brought into the the life of drugs, booze, and music while her family fell apart and her old life slipped away. She and her brother, Liam, find themselves hanging out at Scoville Park making new friends and trying new things. Kara writes about her experiences with the bad boy she fell in love with, a boy w ...more
YA Reads Book Reviews
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The blurb featured above doesn’t even come close to doing Ballads of Suburbia justice. This is not your regular dose of girl-meets-bad boy-but-finds-her-way-back-to-the-right-side-of-the-tracks kind of YA fiction. There is nothing censored, dusted over, or left out of this novel. I’m not even really sure you could classify this one as YA. Having said that, I think its something all angsty teens should read, and not because it has a ‘drugs are bad’ message, although it does, in a round about kind ...more
Annie (Under the Covers Book Blog)

Back when I was reading only YA books, I came upon this book while I was browsing the shelves at Indigo in Downtown Toronto between some of my classes. There was something about this book that caught my attention. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the title or the back blurb, but I knew I just had to read this book. I read and loved it then. And now, in the wake of the new boom of New Adult books, I remembered this special gem that caught my eye a long time ago. So I went back to revisit it
Leslie (That Chick That Reads)
So usually I get new books according to what other bloggers read and liked. Stephanie’s book Ballads of Suburbia was everywhere in the bloggerverse so I decided to take a look at it. Well this book is mainly told in Kara’s point of view. Okie before I even get started with that, let me talk about how the book is organized (which I thought was extremely bad ass). Okie so this book is organized like a song, each different era was labeled as a Verse or Chorus, which I’m guessing is to give the illu ...more
Greta is Erikasbuddy
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book brought back so many fabulous memories of the 90s.

Ballads of Suburbia is centered around a teenage girl named Kara. Her family is going to pot (didn't everyone start to get divorces back then?), her bestie is moving away, her brother is well... a little brother (for now), and she is just discovering music.

Kara then discovers Skoville through a new friend she met at school. At Scoville (a park that the teens have taken over) she meets a whole cast of characters. One of them is Adrain wh
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was going to wait to write this review until tomorrow when I woke up, but I rolled around in bed for half-an-hour, unable to sleep, still thinking about it. I don’t know how to describe Ballads of Suburbia to those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I’ll do my best.

Ballads is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told through creative, lyrical prose. The characters are so intense, so realistic, that they almost jump off the pages. The events that unfold throughout the book are challenging and hear
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Though this book was totally not my scene when I was in high school, Kuehnert definitely captured the ethos of the mid-90s, the years when I came of age myself. She captured the cynicism that has become so mainstream now, but that was just beginning back in the day. I'm no sociologist, but as I read this book, I remembered how we all started to realize the veneer of suburban perfection was cracking to reveal a startling fact: the American Dream was NOT all it was cracked up to be.

People had spe
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to pilfer my own review of this book off of Amazon (since they think they own it now) because I wrote it just after finishing this book and, well, I already wrote it.

I said:

"I debated whether to give this book a 4 or 5 as Amazon doesn't allow in-betweens, but in the end I decided that a book that absorbs you as much as this one and leaves you as spent (but in a good way) deserves a 5.

I read Kuehnert's first book "I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone" immediately before this one and, unlike so
Steph Su
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
BALLADS OF SUBURBIA left me reeling, thinking hard for hours afterwards. I share zero experience with Kara, and yet Stephanie Kuehnert masterfully pulls us into this dangerous, deceptive, yet enticing world of drugs. Only a talented writer can pull you into a world you know nothing about and make you feel as if you simultaneously understand and yet can never understand that world.

I know that I won’t be able to find the words significant to describe this novel, because what it covers is beyond my
Sab H.  (YA Bliss)
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is hardcore. It tried to suck life out of me. Read it if you dare. This is the dark reality every teenage kid fears or faces. We all know drugs, but we see it as the enemy. It's hard to see it from the eyes of an insider. I'm glad this book is out there for teens to read, but be warned its not pretty or pink. Specially if you have had experiences with this.

With that said... dude! this woman is a genius! OMG! What an amazing book. The 'ballad' concept is mind-blowing. What a great theory. I
Good Golly Miss Holly
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Generally, there are two main stereotypes that seem to cause havoc in any teen drama. The rockers who delve into drugs or the cheer squad who thrive on cruelty, well Ballads of Suburbia realistically looks into the lives of the former with Kara as our tour guide.

I can safely say, I've never read a book like this before but I guess it would fit in the same vein as Go Ask Alice or an Ellen Hopkins novel for all the eye-opening drug and alcohol abuse among other things and I'm sure anyone with divo
This book is sad, gut wrenching and utterly devastating. How the hell am i going to get rid of this apathy I'm feeling right now?
Before I started reading it I read the reviews, so I can't say I wasn't warned. I just thought that since I was prepared it wouldn't affect me.

Stephanie Kuehnert has a gift. A gift of creating characters, plots and places in a very realistic way. I was drawn in from the very beginning and was completely convinced that what I was reading was real and not fiction.

Apr 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
I only got through the first few pages and then just skimmed the rest to see if I'd be interested in continuing. Turns out this is the type of novel I would have been more interested in junior high rather than as an adult. I guess I was expecting something more detailed or relatable and instead it just seemed to be lacking.
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
I tried really hard but I ended up 'eh' about this book. It sounds like it is right up my alley with angst-ridden dribble but I guess it wasn't
There were quite literally, WAY too many characters to keep them all straight and made it really hard to feel like there was any real connection between any of them. It make it difficult to get into the characters at all.
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own, blog, signed
Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert came in the mail for me one day, completely unexpected. It was signed and shipped from Stephanie herself and I have no idea why. I searched through my emails, couldn't find any mention of the book, but it had been on my watch/tbr pile for a while, and it was signed, so I was happy and added it to the pile, waiting to be read. It waited for a couple of months before I finally picked it
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STEPHANIE KUEHNERT got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist 'zines. After short stints in Ohio and Wisconsin, Stephanie ultimately returned home and received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Forest Park, IL.
More about Stephanie Kuehnert...
“I automatically assume people won't like me, so I don't talk to them unless they approach me first. I can't become a part of a crowd because I can't get past that feeling that I don't belong.” 358 likes
“It's the ballads I like best, and I'm not talking about the clichéd ones where a diva hits her highest note or a rock band tones it down a couple of notches for the ladies. I mean a true ballad. Dictionary definition: a song that tells a story in short stanzas and simple words, with repetition, refrain, etc. My definition: the punk rocker or the country crooner telling the story of his life in three minutes, reminding us of the numerous ways to screw up.” 24 likes
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