Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


shawn hartje
Shawn Hartje, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Falling in love isn't what seventeen-year-old Jason Krabb imagines when he meets Betsy, an alluring girl from a different background. Struggling to distinguish himself from his prominent family, Jason's quest to leave his mark on the 90s grunge scene gets hilariously sidetracked by Betsy and a rag-tag crew of pipeliners who are bringing gas lines through the Idaho desert to keep the lights on in Portland and Seattle. Pipeliner is at once a coming-of-age love story and a comical timestamp of early 90s family life. Set in the fictional Idaho town of Helen Springs, we find dutiful Mormons, resilient ranchers, disgruntled vets, government honchos, drug-dealing bruisers, irksome teachers, and spirited high schoolers, all doing their best to keep the lights on.
Seventeen-year-old Jason Krabb is desperate to escape his small Idaho town and leave his mark on the 1990s rock world. He spends his time dallying with the local high school girls and doling out cash for music tapes from the mall, jamming with his best friend Doug in their band. Enter Betsy Aarsdrager, a junior at a rival high school, who “guzzle[s] beer [and] smoke[s] pot” while hanging out with her crew of rag-tag pipeliners, currently working on gas lines in the Idaho desert. Betsy’s unusual background is an immediate turn-on for Jason, who quickly inserts himself into her crowd.

Jason’s three-boy grunge band and their high hopes for fame form the backdrop of Hartje’s debut, making this edgy romance a paradise for music fans. Musical references pop throughout, from the newly discovered Stone Temple Pilots to Guns N’ Roses tracks buoying up a party scene awash with sexual tension and coke lines. There’s an unpretentious innocence to the plot and dialogue that aptly mirrors a teenager’s way of thinking, periodically scattered with idiosyncratic outbursts that are all part of growing up. Hartje bounces the narrative between Jason and his mother, Leah, a jarring change initially, but one that soon makes sense, as readers glimpse how a concerned mother sees things very differently from her troubled 17-year-old.

Though they feel suitable within the storyline, Jason’s preoccupations with the opposite sex have a juvenile slant, particularly his fixation on any teenage girl who strolls into his vicinity. As he sharpens his guitar skills—and branches into some seriously rad songwriting—he slowly comes into his own, gaining confidence in his band’s sound while yearning for the superficial markers of ‘90s adulthood—like his ultimate wish for just “one night with Betsy in some high-rise hotel, sexing up the sheets, eating room service hot dogs, and falling asleep to VH1.”

Takeaway: Edgy ‘90s romance that blossoms amid the grunge rock scene.

Comparable Titles: Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-