Review: Don’t Sleep with Your Drummer by Jen Sincero

Posted: August 8, 2014 in Reviews
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This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

One of the more recent books to cross my radar, Jen Sincero’s Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer certainly didn’t languish on the TBR pile for long. I’m not sure why; I had picked it up on the recommendation of a fellow PaperbackSwap member and I guess it just called to me.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Yeah, it’s sort of cliched in that this story’s been told before: girl decides to drop her life and make one last shot at the big time. But it also avoids falling into the many cliches and death traps that so many rock and roll novels fall into. Yes, the bass player is a junkie. Yes, the drummer’s hot. Yes, the lead guitarist is flaky. It’s the way that Ms. Sincero deals with all these that elevates this book into one I’d recommend.

Let’s start with Lucy. We’re told she’s flaky, but from where I sit, she’s not so bad. Every time she seems to flake on Jenny, she’s doing it for the same reason (and that reason isn’t a man, despite Jenny’s jealousy of Lucy’s way with the opposite gender). It was apparent to me that Lucy was in Sixty Foot Queenie only to make Jenny happy. Her heart was with the Afreaka! outfit; it’s a character flaw in Lucy that she wasn’t brave enough to speak up. It’s also a character flaw in Jenny that she wasn’t willing to see this and to let her best friend go.

Jake the junkie… This was one of the plot lines that wasn’t well served by Jenny’s easy-breezy voice. There’s a lot going on here, with an ex-wife, some violence, the drug use. Yet we never see beneath the surface. I’d have liked to, even a little bit.

Same for Scott the hot drummer with the serious jealousy issues. Here’s a man who’s willing to park his truck around the corner and crawl out the bedroom window so no one finds out he’s schtupping the band leader, yet if anyone touches his girl — the band leader, who of course is going to be the center of attention — he goes ballistic. It makes no sense. I need a backstory here. I need some character development.

I also wonder about the need to hide the relationship. After all, Rob Zombie and Sean Yseult, anyone? Yeah, the end of their relationship was the end of White Zombie, but for years, they made quite the team. Yes, Scott’s jealousy issues doom this relationship, but Jenny didn’t know that when she felt the electricity between herself and Scott. Yet she was all too quick to proclaim this fling as wrong. She never gave it a chance.

Ultimately, I had a hard time liking Jenny. My biggest issue with her was that she came across more like a nineteen-year-old kid than she did as a twenty-nine-year-old woman. That’s not because I was married by age 29 and therefore, Jenny was wrong to be so flighty. Hardly.

Jenny had a naivetivity to her that would have worked for a younger character, but didn’t work in someone who should have gained some worldliness and maturity. I frequently found myself losing patience with her, counting how many pages I’d read, and wondering if I could quit reading now.

I’m glad I didn’t. While Jenny never really grew into a woman in her late ’20s, this problem managed to stop bothering me so badly once the band began to take off. Besides, she had moments that salvaged some of my good will toward her — like when she was tutoring and found a way to get one of the kids to break his writer’s block. THAT was a masterful moment.

Ultimately, I like Rock Fiction best when the pages breathe music, and Don’t Sleep with your Drummer certainly did that. The music end of this book is real. It’s vivid. It’s almost enough to make up for the other issues I had.

Oh, if only Jenny had been nineteen instead of 29… we’d have a rave-worthy book…

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