Notice that you have a week until this comes out to go stand in line at your favorite books store and get a copy as soon as you can. Sonnenblick doing a time travel book. About Woodstock. Such happiness!
Sonnenblick, Jordan. Are You Experienced?
3 September 2013, Feiwel and Friends
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Rich has always struggled with the demands of his much older, strict parents. He understands that his father has never recovered from the heroin overdoes death of his older brother in the fall of 1969, but thinks that his parents are still unreasonable. When Rich is arrested for playing guitar at a rally to support the legalization of marijuana, on the very anniversary of his uncle Mike's death, his father is angrier than usual. After visiting his father in the basement in the middle of the night, Rich is suprised to find that his father has a lot of memorabilia from Woodstock in the basement, including a guitar that appears to have been Jimi Hendrix's. When Rich picks it up, plugs it into an amp and strums a chord, he's knocked out... and comes to naked, in the middle of a road, being hit by a Cadillac. Yes, he's gone back in time and met his father, David, who is traveling to Woodstock with his brother Mike and Mike's girlfriend, Willow. They give him clothes and invite him to come along. Rich realizes that he must be back in 1969 for a reason, and learns many things about his father's life that make him understand the man his father has become. A note on the guitar from Hendrix leads Rich to believe that he has three days to stay in the past, and he makes the best of it, both in enjoying the rare opportunity to see history in action, and in trying to "fix" his father. Chance encounters with the musicians, as well as vivid descriptions of the festival, make this a poignant tale of a pivotal time period.
Strengths: The research on this is phenomenal, but the thing that struck me most was how the book made me FEEL. The late 1960s, for me, has such a specific feeling of hope and loss mixed together, and this captured that exactly. I don't want to give away major plot points, but Mike and Rich both understand that Woodstock is a turning point, and a turning point that will not end happily, even though they are enjoying themselves at the time. Sonnenblick's writing is brilliant, as always, and even deeper than his previous novels, which is saying a lot. Also, on the time travel front, he gives us a mystical, believable vehicle, and even quotes Jerry Garcia in the notes in the back: "The thing about Woodstock was that you could feel the presence of invisible time travelers from the future who had come back to see it!" Maybe Woodstock will be my first stop when I get the mechanism for time travel figured out!
Extra bonus points for giving firm reasons for the father of a current teenager being old enough to have been at Woodstock!
Weaknesses: While I understood why Sonnenblick chose to start with flashbacks, this would have been more successful for me without them. Time travel books are generally confusing enough, and a linear format could have still had the emotional impact. Also, be warned that this is definitely YA. While the sexual behavior is not graphic, it is strongly hinted at, and there is drug use all over the place. There are also three f-bombs. While not gratuitous (they are all used at critical junctures where the character is angry), they are there, if this is a concern. Also, not a weakness, but something that I missed-- Sonnenblick's biggest asset is his ability to tell sad stories in a funny way. This was such a serious story that funny moments would not have been appropriate, but I hope that this will not become a trend in his writing.
While I like the original cover better, I can see how current teenagers wouldn't understand the groovy font and color scheme.
And yes, I will put a copy in my library. It's Sonnenblick, and there's a HUGE following in my library for him. As I said, the f-bombs are rare and not gratuitous, and the book is a fascinating glimpse of Woodstock. You would think there would be more on that event, but I can only think of Wallace's War and Watermelon.