Music sales are lagging. Record stores are becoming extinct. And the music in MTV has been replaced by various reality TV shows. The state of music is quite uncertain, which leads me to wonder: Do today’s teenagers obsess over music the ways teenagers did in the past?
Allie, the teenage protagonist of Yvonne Prinz’s young adult novel The Vinyl Princess does. She works at Bob & Bob Records in Berkeley, one of the last hold-outs of independent record stores.While her peers fill their iPods with the latest releases, Allie prefers the romance of putting a needle on the record’s groove and cherishes her massive vinyl collection.
She is also a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge. Name a Beatles’ song, and she knows exactly what album it’s on. Allie puts her knowledge to good use (and not to mention, her access to all the great music at Bob & Bob), and starts her own music blog and hard copy zine, aptly titled The Vinyl Princess.
She blogs about vintage LPs and the tangibility of records. “I love the look of vinyl, the smell of it, the tiny crackles you hear before a song starts.” And others agree with her – before long her fan base grows, wanting her opinion on everything from David Bowie to the perfect music mixes.
Meanwhile, beleaguered store owner Bob (there is only one Bob) claims he’s going to shut down because people prefer to download music. Plus, a string of neighborhood robberies has him worried that Bob & Bob will be next.
Allie’s personal life also hangs in the balance. Her parents are divorced. Her dad’s new wife (barely older than Allie) is pregnant, and her mom is dipping her toes into the world of online dating. Allie has boy troubles of her own — she has serious thing for the mysterious Joel who often visits the store, but whose intentions may or may not be sinister in nature. Then there is Zach, who brings Allie homemade music mixes, and tries to fill her brain with new musical facts. Guess which boy she likes better?
As summer unfolds, Allie realizes she’s going to have to embrace some pretty huge changes, both personally and at work. But will hard-won maturity come at the end?
While reading The Vinyl Princess, I kept forgetting that it was a young adult novel. Prinz never talks down to her audience, respecting them no matter what generation they got slid into. Being into music makes Allie a cool girl — her love and knowledge of music was infectious, and her real-life problems rang very true.
The depiction of Allie’s blog was a bit unbelievable. It became hugely successful overnight, and within a couple of months a business wants to buy it. To anyone with a blog, this is quite unrealistic. It takes a very long time to get an audience in the blogospshere, and some of the best out there get ignored for absolute dreck.
Still, my complaints are minor. Allie is the kind of teenage girl character that needs to be represented more in pop culture: smart, relatable and interesting. The Vinyl Princess’s crown may be a bit tarnished, but it still royally rocks.