After Johnny's dad dies his mom crumbles and he's left - at 12 years old - to pick up the pieces. He makes sure the bills get paid on time, he makes sure there's food in the fridge, and he makes sure the house is kept in livable conditions. Its all a bit much and he starts drinking to take the edge off. Before you know it, he's got a serious drinking problem and has been abandoned at the emergency room by his "friends" after he ODs. His mother, who doesn't understand him anyway because of the eyeliner, the black clothes, and the general gothiness of him and his friends takes the opportunity to ship him off to live with his Uncle.
What really struck me was that even though Johnny hasn't had the easiest life, he's sweet to the point of naivety. He is obsessed with Blondie's Debbie Harry. Obsessed to the point where he's not sure if he's in love with her or if he wants to be her. I think its Johnny's innocence that makes this work. He's open to being gay, even if he doesn't really think he is, but he's not sure what it means if he wants to dress up as Debbie Harry and enter a drag contest. He hashes it out internally and with his girlfriend, his guidance counselor, even his uncle. And it still manages to come off as refreshingly un-melodramatic.
I really enjoyed the music references too. I loved that Johnny, besides having a Blondie fixation, also ventured out into the punk community. And unlike other teen novels that focus on the punk scene, this one actually rang true. He goes to the local club on ladies night - a night when all female tribute bands play (The Ramonas do The Ramones, Janie Jones does The Clash). How cute is that? Not to mention being a really neat touch and one that ties into the central theme of figuring out his sexuality. I won't mention what Johnny discovers about his father, but needless to say, it was the icing on the cake. The only thing that could have made it even better is if he had found a New York Dolls record.
Other Reviews: Worth the Trip, Hypothetically Speaking