Review: Bling by Erica Kennedy

Posted: July 4, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

When I decided to start aggressively reading the rock books I mention on the Rock Books page of the website, I figured I’d hold true to my rule to only post about the books I like.

Then I decided that wasn’t fair to any of us. After all, part of this whole passion of mine is to point you to the good stuff. Or, the stuff *I* think is good.

And besides, since I finished Erica Kennedy’s debut, Bling, it’s been bothering me. I want to write about it.

Here’s why: it got very good reviews from such places as Publisher’s Weekly (although they called the writing “pedestrian,” which I’d have to agree with. I winced at a lot of things that could have been worded better). It got raves from people in the know in the industry. It should have been a great book.

It wasn’t.

One review (from the New Yorker) went so far as to call the book a satire. I got an A in my college satire class, but I missed it here. In fact, if anything, I was disappointed by how cliche everything was. I didn’t feel like this was an insider look into the hip hop world — as I’d been hoping it would be — so much as it was a cliched tale of what happens when the country bumpkin arrives in big, bad New York City.

Mimi has to choose between her friends and her dreams. She shows up in New York with nary a clue about pretty much anything and is taken under the wing of some high-powered people. But other than “because the boss said so,” I don’t see much of a reason for them doing this. In fact, I don’t even see these people acting out of the sense of duty I’m sure that, in real life, they’d feel. This whole scheme — take the talented Eliza Doolittle and make her into a hip hop Star — is certainly something that happens on a regular basis. I can’t imagine this same set of characters being so welcoming and warm to every little idiot who comes off the airplane.

One thing I look for when books are set in the music world is the music itself. Sure, it can be a backdrop, as it is in my own books. But this book is about a woman climbing the ladder of success. They go to nightclubs. We’re in recording studios. Let me see behind the scenes of the hip hop world. Let me feel the music. Let it come alive.

Sadly, it doesn’t. Or, rather, I’m treated to exactly what I expect. I don’t get to see any salicious details, as Publisher’s Weekly claims you do. I don’t get characters I like. I don’t get, I don’t get, I don’t get.

Yep, all in all, I was quite disappointed in Bling. I haven’t read Ms. Kennedy’s second novel, which seems to be out of print, or Feminista, which came out in September of 2009.

This makes me sad. I’d been hoping for so much more from Bling. I’d wanted to see behind the great curtain in hip hop’s Oz.

Maybe I did, and I was expecting too much. Maybe the hip hop world is exactly as it’s portrayed here. If so, I know why I’m not a fan of it.

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