Plot/Idea: Gebien’s acerbic wit and incisive voice help buoy Damen’s various misadventures as he grapples with two competing identities: rock star and stepfather.
Prose: Gebien’s prose is suffused as much with heart as with grit. Her true-to-life dialogue and atmospheric writing will engage a broad range of readers.
Originality: The author's subversive sense of humor captures the essence of a man struggling to raise himself out of obscurity. A colorful cast of characters uplifts the story: Damen’s dangerously sexy girlfriend Melody and his crooked investor, Judge, all fill out the pages to make for a wacky, erratic tale.
Character Development/Execution: Gebien’s careful plotting and clever characterization create a nuanced portrait of a man attempting to realize his own destiny.
Date Submitted: April 25, 2022
"Damen Warner is the frontman for the band OBNXS, which has just been dumped by its label. Damen lives with a motley crew of roommates and a rooster in Chicago who are on a downward spiral: “It hadn’t taken long for” the band’s “bad habits to settle into a routine…boozing and jamming,” messing around with “dancers and drugs…until the sun came up and the whole cycle started over again.” But there is hope for the group when an investor agrees to help fund its next project. Though Damen’s career has taken a positive turn, his personal life is in upheaval. He has fraught dealings with his family; he is struggling to get inspiration for his latest album; and he is unclear about the terms of his relationship with Melody, a stripper at a club he frequents. When he is called in to babysit Melody’s daughter, Victoria, at the last minute, he begins to form a bond with the girl, instructing her to stand up to school bullies and even taking her trick-or-treating. As he and the band try to record a new album, they join forces with a millennial blogger who helps OBNXS go viral, capitalizing on Damen’s public escapades. But Damen and Melody’s relationship is tested as he struggles to cope with her clients and Victoria’s father, a rich guy who hates the musician and wants to take the child from her mother. In this engaging, well-crafted sequel, Damen’s narrative voice is distinct, raw, and cynical, just right for a 30-year-old rock star trying to get back on top. Gebien establishes Damen’s voice from the very first page. The protagonist warns readers: “Well, congratulations. It’s all downhill from here. You don’t have to turn back—it’s a free country. You can do what you want. Go ahead and stare at the sun while you’re at it: it will probably cause less damage to your retinas than the escalating indecency ahead. Still here? God help you.” But for all the discussion of Damen’s rock dreams, he doesn’t make much music throughout the course of the book. This is one rich area that could have been further explored.
A gritty music story/romance with an endearing narrator."
- Kirkus Reviews