Ballads of Suburbia

Ballads of Suburbia

4.16 (1,179 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 
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Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara McNaughton likes best. Not the cliched ones where a diva hits her highest note or a rock band tones it down a couple of notches for the ladies, but the true ballads: the punk rocker or the country crooner telling the story of their life in three minutes, the chorus reminding their listeners of the numerous ways to screw things up. In high school, Kara helped maintain the "Stories of Suburbia" notebook, which contained newspaper articles about bizarre and often tragic events from suburbs all over and personal vignettes that Kara dubbed "ballads" written by her friends in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Those "ballads" were heartbreakingly honest tales of the moments when life changes and a kid is forced to grow up too soon. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she was leaving town after a series of disastrous events at the end of her junior year.

Four years later, Kara returns to face the music, and tells the tale of her first three years of high school with her friends' "ballads" interspersed throughout.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 127 x 178 x 25mm | 289g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Original
  • 1439102821
  • 9781439102824
  • 462,277

About Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist zines. She received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and lives in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Ballads of Surburbia and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. Learn more at
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Rating details

1,179 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 50% (585)
4 28% (333)
3 14% (166)
2 5% (55)
1 3% (40)

Our customer reviews

Ms. Kuehnert has written another powerful and hard-hitting novel to follow up her stunning debut, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. Kara is friendless when her BFF Stacey has to move to another less expensive suburb of Chicago. So when new girl Maya enters Chemistry class and sits down beside her, she's excited to see a kindred soul. Soon the two take to hanging out after school in Scoville Park. Maya is everything Kara isn't, first and foremost outgoing. Maya jumps right in and creates a spot for them with the gang at Scoville. It isn't until Kara becomes associated with fire that she truly feels she's part of the crowd. Kara uses Scoville to help escape life at home. Her parents are constantly at odds and her younger brother, Liam, is as desperate for attention as Kara is. She begins to bring Liam with her to Scoville and he soon becomes another member of the group. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA explores Kara's connections with the others that hang out at Scoville. These kids know how to party, and slowly Kara gets sucked into the world of drugs by those around here. She's attracted to bad boy Adrian and is told that he must really like her because he treats her differently than all the other girls. But she knows she should be with Christian, the good guy. It isn't until Christian turns dark that Kara's world truly blows up. Friendships are tested and emotions flare. Interspersed throughout the novel, Ms. Kuehnert inserts the "ballads" of various characters. Adrian has in his possession a journal that anyone can read, with the condition that you must first write your own story. Kara can never bring herself to write her story, even when tragedy hits...more than once. It isn't until Kara ventures home after escaping the negativity of Oak Park that life comes full circle for Kara. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a dark, desperate look at teenage life in the suburbs in the early 1990s. Ms. Kuehnert gets right to the heart of the teenage angst and struggles to fit in to any crowd. Though a bleak look, the ending leaves the reader filled with hope at the future Kara is trying to create for more
by TeensReadToo
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