Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom's boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber's optimism--and her way of life, can Amber continue to be the rock star of hope? With an oddball cast of characters, and a heartwarming, inspiring story, this novel unveils a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope.
Details: Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick, 362 pages, 4.27 stars on Goodreads
Review: I have to admit, I was a bit unsure about this one when I first considered reading it. "Princess of hope"? "Unyielding optimism"? I was scared this would be one of those stories where horrible incident after horrible incident occurs and the protagonist is still stupidly happy and hopeful in a way that only makes you frustrated because no one can possibly be that perfect in the face of such awfulness. But trust me, Sorta Like a Rock Star was in no way like that.
Amber Appleton is the most fantastic character since the character that invented sliced bread. (See what I did there?) Sometimes the things she thinks feel a little strange to me (like calling herself the princess/rock star of hope), but she's such an absolutely awesome and flawed character that I can overlook that. Her voice was so real and strong and honest that even though she could be so optimistic, it felt true. The one thing I noticed about Amber was that her voice seemed younger than she is. I probably would have pinned her at thirteen or fourteen instead of seventeen, but that's just a minor nitpick.
All the other characters were just as amazing. The synopsis was right when it called it an "oddball cast", because each one was quirky and developed and so wonderfully fleshed-out. Private Jackson, for instance, was more than just traumatized ex-soldier. I absolutely loved how he wrote and read haikus - these are the kind of character traits that give someone more depth, and they come from intimately knowing your character, even if he or she plays a more minor role.
A lot of people call this book an inspirational read, and it is. This is a story about overcoming adversity with optimism and cheer, but that you don't have to be perfect to do so. It's about braving your way through the hardest of times and not being afraid to rely on other people or be relied on yourself. But there's more to this than a handful of lessons wrapped up in smooth pages and a shiny cover - this is truly Amber's story, with laughs and tears and face-stretching grins, and that makes it something anyone can enjoy.