Author: Megan Brothers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Henry Holt BFYR
Release date: April 24, 2012
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Completely Contemporary Challenge
Summary: After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.
But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies.
I was instantly attracted to SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES by Megan Brothers because of the cover. It’s just so retro! It reminds me of how many cassette tape singles I used to have. But if I thought that SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES was going to be something a little lighter and fun with a big helping of music nerding, I was not quite on the mark. Megan Brother’s debut is a different kind of contemporary, one that focuses on a more serious thing and sets about righting it, which is absolutely fine. I liked Megan Brother’s debut well enough, friends, but I also got this really gritty, weird, punk-snob vibe from this book that isn’t always my favorite thing in the world. And while I liked Maria and was really satisfied reading her story, there were other things about this book that, for me, are some of my personal thumbs downers.
I’m just going to start with a little gripe: Maybe it should have been a BIG, NEON-SIGN clue that SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES wasn’t a CONTEMPORARY contemp when I saw the cover was an ACTUAL CASSETTE TAPE. But for some reason, I had no idea until I started reading and puzzled things out that it takes place in the 90s. Maria talks about Kurt Cobain’s death (I still remember this CLEAR AS DAY, btw), wears JNCOs (OHMYGOD I can’t even begin to describe these), and her mom practically DIES from cringing over the possibility of needing to move to *GASP!* Brooklyn, a decrepit, outer-borough hell full of UNCOOL things (HA!). It bothered me that the time was never explicitly stated because for a little while in the beginning, I was very confused. Little grip over.
Now, Maria, our main character, was a good (good as in good character, not necessarily a “good girl”), very real young girl. She feels stifled in her small, Southern hometown where she lives with her dad, and decides that, after an incident involving a boy (this got short-shrifted, I thought), she needs a change of scenery. Her dad and grandmother let her move to New York City, MECCA of stifled young people everywhere, to live with her estranged mom. I liked reading about Maria trying to figure out what she wants and where she wants to be. She doesn’t always make good decisions, and sometimes that can go either way for me, but Maria making some missteps felt very genuine to me. Maria wasn’t living it up in the city, being crazy; she was struggling and testing and thirsty to learn things. Sometimes I wanted to shake her, sometimes I wanted to hug her, but I enjoyed reading about Maria and her imperfections.
Her mom, on the other hand, is one of those moms who drives me nuts. Like, who’s the parent here and who’s the child? I have a personal beef with moms who want to be their daughters BFFs and so they foster this weird, irresponsible kind of relationship that basically absolves them of any real adult-like responsibility. SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES has exactly that kind of mom. I have bad–indirect but bad–experience with it. So it’s really impossible for me to read about Victoria without being REALLY irritated. Maybe it will be different for you guys, but I really kind of hate it when mom’s give up on the responsibility of having kids just because it cramps their style, and that’s totally how I saw Victoria DITCHING her little family and running off to NYC to hang around with musicians, ignore her family, paint, and live like a free spirit. Such bullshit to me. Victoria does wind up having a real issue that affects this, but still. GROW UP LADY, AND NO THANK YOU FOR RUNNING OUT ON YOUR KID. But like I said, it’s one of my personal bad buttons. I can certainly see how Maria thinks her mom is THE COOLEST, at least at first.
But you get this feeling that Maria’s mom wants them to be twins almost. Or that she can’t imagine that her own flesh and blood wouldn’t DIE over Patty Smith albums when, really, all Maria wants to do is figure out her own thing. (SIDENOTE: I don’t like really any of the music that Megan Brothers uses as the focal point for SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES. The whole late 70s-early 80s NYC punk thing might be some of my least favorite music to listen to in the whole world, and I got this DISTINCT feeling that some of the characters would judge me because I don’t fangirl The Ramones. Not really a cool feeling.) I started to feel like, if I was Maria, I would be just as suffocated by my mother’s almost-pretentious, pre-hipster elitism as I had been by living in a middle-of-nowhere, slow, boring Southern town. I felt sad for Maria when she realizes that her mom isn’t as awesome as she always envisioned.
In the end, SUPERGIRL MIXTAPES by Megan Brothers was a good book, guys, that had a likable but realistically frustrating main character. While I’m not a fan of the music in this book, you can tell that the author probably is. The passion and the knowledge is fun to read, even when I feel the characters judging the fact that I have The Grateful Dead on my iPod through the pages. I wish the ending had a little more meat on it, or that it had come a few chapters later. And there’s a WEIRD and kind of predictable thing that happens with Maria and her mom’s boyfriend that really made me cringey. But you definitely get the sense that Maria has changed and grown and seen the real world, and I can always get behind that.