From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nick Hornby: Juliet, Naked

I liked the cover art and the synopsis, so I decided to give Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby a try.

Tucker Crowe is a former singer-songwriter who hasn't recorded music, performed a concert, or conducted an interview since he up and walked away from the music industry twenty years ago. But he still has overzealous fans who refer to themselves as "Croweologists." They meet online to over-analyze his lyrics, share rumors, gossip, & photos, and express their opinions on all things Crowe.

Unfortunately for Annie, her boyfriend Duncan is the leader of the Croweologists. He's the webmaster of a Tucker Crowe website and devotes more time to Tucker than anything else in his life, including Annie. He is a rather self-congratulatory super-fan and an insufferable snob. Annie's starting to think she's been wasting her time on their relationship, which seems to be stuck in a rut and heading nowhere.

When a new Tucker Crowe recording--"Juliet, Naked," a stripped down version of Tucker's most beloved album, "Juliet"--is released, Duncan and Annie find themselves on opposite sides of the fence. Duncan loves it and actually weeps as he listens. Annie thinks the acoustic, unpolished tracks could never live up to the finished product.

They both post their reviews on Duncan's website, and Annie soon learns that Duncan's relationship with Tucker Crowe's music is more important than his relationship with her. But Annie is moving on, and she has a part of Tucker Crowe that Duncan will never have: Tucker himself! In response to her review, Tucker sends her an email agreeing with her thoughts on the album. He thinks it's garbage too. Furthermore, he thinks the Croweologists are a little on the crazy side.

Through their email exchange, which is a well-balanced conversation and flirtation, the reader learns what Tucker has really been up to since fading into obscurity so long ago--and it's nowhere near what the fans think. Turns out, he's a human being too and struggling with past decisions and mistakes.

I've been wanting to read a Nick Hornby novel for a while now, and I'm glad this was my first. The characters were complex and interesting. I loved the music backdrop. I saw more than a few familiar faces from a former boyband fandom in the overzealous stalkers and holier-than-thou Internet critics.

I didn't want the book to end, savoring the words on each page. But, unfortunately, it had to. And, honestly, it didn't end on the best note. I literally cringed at the desperate turn Annie took to get what she wanted. It seemed out of character, and that may have been the point. But I was rooting for her until the end. I also wasn't happy with the ending itself, which seemed like an attempt to neatly wrap things up without actually wrapping them up. And, again, maybe that was the point. Still, I was left feeling unsatisfied. Those are the only two things that will keep me from giving an immensely entertaining book four hearts.

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