I have to admit that when I picked up Jukebox, I thought it was a different book. I had been certain that was the name of a book I had seen an interesting review of a couple of years ago and picked it up on one of my Bella Book buying binges. This should teach me to read the blurbs before hitting the “add to my cart” button. Quite honestly, if I had read the blurb, I may have passed on this one. Luckily, it turned out to be a good mistake and, although I was a bit confused when the first chapter didn’t match up to what I was expecting, I found myself drawn into the story and enjoyed it quite a bit.
Although Jukebox starts and ends in 2007, the real story is the relationship of young Harper and Grace in the 80s and 90s. Facing off as competitors at a grade school tennis competition, the two young girls become best friends and inseparable troublemakers. This is a bit of a coming of age story as both Harper and Grace are growing up and their friendship develops, without their even realizing, into an intense romance where both are consumed with one another while having to hide the truth from friends and family. More importantly, they aren’t quite able to admit it to themselves as they struggle with their own sexual identities while those around them are trying to fit them into the traditional moulds of debutante and socialites.
Each chapter is titled with a song from the 80s, taken no doubt from the jukebox at Ernie’s, a dive bar they frequent in their rebellious youth. The jukebox is a great plot device as Harper uses it to give voice to the overwhelming feelings she has for Grace and then as a way for both young women to communicate with each other in a crowd. As someone who grew in the same timeframe, I recognized most of the songs and they evoked my own set of memories. Afterall, the 80s were a great time for angst-ridden music and the song choices make a wonderful backdrop to the slow and smoldering seduction between the two young women.
There are elements of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – both girls are from affluent and influential families living privileged and sheltered lives in Phoenix, being presented as debutantes at the Country Club and travelling through Europe during their summers – which at times makes it a bit difficult to identify with them, but both Harper and Grace are complex and well developed and the overwhelming first love and underlying doubts, fears, and confusion they feel are universal.
The majority of the book is told from Harper’s POV with only two scenes that feature Grace and the uneven balance of the POV just didn’t work for me. I think that it may have been more effective to have everything from Harper’s perspective. I wouldn’t say that it detracts from the overall story as Grace’s POV is presented at the very beginning and the end, but I think it would have been more effective to leave the whole story in Harper’s perspective and leave the reader to find out with Harper how things would all work out.
This one ranks high on the angst –o-meter and there were times I wanted to shake Harper and yell at her “get over it, she’s no good for you, move on”. But as this is a story about first love it works well. After so much angst in the majority of the book, things seem to resolve quickly which was a bit of a surprise. So, with all that being said, if you like a good angst-ridden romance with a touch of coming of age, plus some great reminders of music from the 1980s, this is definitely a book for you.