Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dirty Little Flop

Music is infectious. Music seeps into your soul. And if you are meant to make music, there is nothing that can keep you from making that music, even a pair of unsupportive parents who threaten to take away your college tuition. In Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols, Bailey was born a fiddler and will always be a fiddler. No matter who tries to tell her she can't be.

Bailey and her sister Julie were a team. They worked the bluegrass circuit as a duo and always played to each other's strengths and patched the holes of each other's weaknesses. When a record deal was offered, though, it wasn't for the duo. It was for 16 year old Julie, and 18 year old Bailey was informed that not only would she not get a deal, but the recording company was worried about bad press if people found out Julie's fame came from the destruction of a sister duo, so Bailey was sent to live with her grandfather and ordered to stay away from the music scene. Easier said than done in Nashville. Luckily her grandfather, a maker of string instruments, understands Bailey's need to play and gets her a gig playing back-up fiddle for the traveling bands int he mall. Not glamorous, unless you consider being dressed up as a middle-aged Elvis' back-up singer glamorous, but at least she can play. And she is good at it!

When Bailey is assigned to Johnny Cash (impersonator) and his son, she doesn't expect to find a boy who not only gets her, but also understands her passion for the rockabilly music they all crave. Sam commandeers his father's song and Bailey gets a little taste of his brilliance, both with guitar and his singing. When he convinces her to come play with her band, she is terrified her parents will find out or someone will connect her to Julie if she performs, but Sam is a persuasive guy. When she gets on stage with Charlotte, Ace, and Sam, she knows this band is where she belongs. Unfortunately, Julie's career is more important to her than her own music, and she won't jeopardize Julie. But Sam has other ideas. Not one to take no for an answer, he isn't afraid to lie, cheat, and manipulate to get what he wants, especially if it means he can achieve the success he so desperately craves.

I need to preface this review by saying I have always loved Jennifer Echols' books. They are edgy, no BS, and they appeal to mature YA audiences (or New Adult, if you buy into that subgenre). But this book made me cringe. I loved Bailey, but my hatred for Sam spoiled the entire book for me. Bailey was a sweet girl who got shafted all around: by her parents, by the recording industry, and by Sam... all the time. Everyone used her or discarded her to fit their own needs and no one cared about who Bailey was and what she wanted. And quite frankly, it made me angry to the point of violence against these fictional characters. I don't know why I didn't put the book down, but I can only imagine it was because I figured it had to eventually improve, but I was wrong. Instead, by the end of the book, I was so disgusted by Sam and Bailey's parents that I actually wished I had never read this book. What a poor example for young adult women to be exposed to.

First, Bailey was "in trouble" for the car accident she got into with her boyfriend. This was supposed to be the huge thing that led them to tuck her away, BUT they had already told her about the recording deal, taken away her future, cut her off from her sister, and discarded her BEFORE the accident. Then the accident itself wasn't even that awful, at least on her part. She went to a party where she didn't drink or do drugs, got in a car with her boyfriend who she didn't know had done coke, then he crashed into a pond, and finally he tried to manipulate her into taking the fall. Gratefully, Bailey told him to go scratch and told the truth about the wreck, but besides having poor taste in boys, I don't understand how any of this was Her fault, besides the fact that it made her parents have to remember that they had a second daughter- a fact they were happy to forget. 

Then her parents. Ugh. They had no problem discarding one daughter for the fame of the other, and Julie's career was what THEY wanted, not Julie. She missed having a real life, but they didn't care. They just threw it in her face that they had made huge sacrifices to get her this far. Even when she refused to go on stage until Bailey came, they blamed Bailey for filling her head with nonsense. Great parents. Really, model parents right here. If Echols' purpose was to make every young adult thankful for the loving, yet inevitably flawed, parents they had, then she succeeded. Otherwise, she just made me appalled by such selfish, self-centered, manipulative parents who should never have been allowed to have children. 

And finally, there is Sam. The worst of the worst. Sam is only concerned with his own career, and he is willing to do anything to get it. Including seducing young women to join his band to get them gigs. In fact, even though Charlotte, his bandmate, blows up his spot and tells Bailey that every sweet nothing he whispered to her, he also whispered to Charlotte (verbatim), Sam still manages to paint Charlotte as crazy and jealous... and Bailey BELIEVES him! Ugh! Then, Bailey agrees to play with them as long as there are no videos or other evidence that could be posted somewhere and jeopardize Julie's career. Does Sam care? NOPE! Send it in anyway and then cannot fathom why she would be upset by all this! In fact, he makes her feel like SHE is being selfish. Yep. Real winner there! Then, he makes fun of songwriters, something Bailey is not only good at, but she sees as her only outlet since there is no one in her life she can talk to. What a winner that guy Sam is! And as if that isn't enough... he actually convinces her to go groveling back to her parents SO THEY CAN GET HIM A RECORD DEAL. Before he realized just how serious Julie's career was, he was all, "Oh your parents are horrid! Never speak to them again!" Then he sees Julie's billboard and is like, "What is wrong with you? Your parents can make us famous! Can't you suck up your pride for once to help us?! C'mon! They aren't all that bad! See?! Having connections makes them infallible! Never mind your horrible childhood. I want a record deal!" And you know what she does? First she calls him on this BS... then she sleeps with him. Fabulous. Calling all Young Adult ladies! You worried you might be too strong, too determined, too powerful, and too proud? Don't worry, I've got the book for you! And this one will be sure to make you into the quivering, manipulated, spineless woman we want our next generation to become!! 
**End Spoilers**

I hated Sam with a vehemence that doesn't even rival my hatred for Lord Voldemort, because at least the Big LV admitted he was evil, relished in it, even. Sam was billed as an awesome musician who came to sweep her off her feet, and instead he just continued to abuse her like her parents did. I am sorry, but there is no young adult woman I would ever give this book to. It demeans everything we try to teach the amazing young women in our lives: to believe in themselves, to stand up for themselves, and to see through people who would rather use them than love them. This book is truthfully one of the worst examples of young adulthood that I have ever read. Please don't give this to your young ladies. Don't do that to our next generation. Instead give them a book like Graceling or Throne of Glass or Defiance with some real, butt-kickin', take no prisoners kind of ladies. Trust me. We don't want to encourage our young women to become the Baileys of the world. Sorry, Ms. Echols. You might have ruined me forever from your books with this one. 

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