Title: Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star
Author: Randy Powell
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 224
The protagonist of Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star is a sarcastic teenage boy named Grady who’s struggling with his feelings over the death of his mother, a famous musician who died after choking on her own vomit. He has good memories of her but she also effectively abandoned him in favor of her career, leaving him to live with his grandmother and her husband. Now he’s moving out of his grandparents’ place and has to decide what the next step in his life should be.
He could move in with his cognitively disabled half-brother Louie and Louie’s born-again Christian parents, but Grady and Louie’s adoptive mom Vickie hate each other’s guts. She’s constantly putting him down and it seems like staying with her long-term will surely drive him crazy. On top of all that, Grady’s attending a tribute for his mom and has no idea what to say.
His mom’s fans are as rabidly dedicated to her music as he is ambivalent, unsure about her effect on his and Louie’s lives. Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star is heartfelt coming-of-age story with rich and morally ambiguous characters and relationships. At times it was hard to read because of how horrible Vickie was to Grady, basically painting him as this uncaring piece-of-shit that ruins everything.
The one problem I had with this book is that it seemed to underplay how psychologically abusive Vickie was to Grady throughout the book. She had her redeeming moments, but I really couldn’t stand her. Some of the things she said about him had a grain of truth but really, who’s the adult here? I really liked the relationship between Grady and Louie and how Grady was devoted to him even though he could be ‘a lot’ sometimes.
He acknowledges some of the ways he hasn’t been such a great half-brother to Louie and develops as a person throughout the book. The writing was nuanced, there spoke to growing up as a young adult without a stable family unit and separating an artist’s personal and family life. It’s an older book (published in 2003) and not particularly well-known but I recommend it to both adults and teens who might be interested in getting their hands on a copy.