Jonny Valentine is not your average 11 year old. He’s a pop star, bent on world domination. He’s a hard worker with distinct ideas about what the audience wants to hear from him. He’s acutely aware of the level of “chub” on himself and everyone around him. His momanger has a drug problem. He idolizes Michael Jackson. And he wants to be your favorite singer.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine: A Novel by Teddy Wayne dares to step inside the mind of a pop star, closely modeled on Justin Bieber and not unlike Austin Mahone, who is discovered on YouTube and becomes an overnight sensation. This breed of star feeds off the energy of their tween audience but what goes through their minds? Are they excited? Do they have any idea what it means when they say they’re “just a normal kid”?
The novel’s title character, Jonny Valentine, talks in marketing jargon. He allows himself to be set up with a female tween star, painted in shades of Selena Gomez, for publicity. His idol/rival Tyler Beats comes through like a post-’NSYNC Justin Timberlake. And his single mother/manager Jane is the most Dina Lohan character going in fiction.
Valentine himself inhabits a dark world, where record label execs tussle over his image while he struggles to find himself. Disquietingly, his world view is most informed by the video game he obsessively plays by himself. He disarmingly understands the mechanics of having an entire crew of peoples livelihoods riding on his shoulders. And he’s all to aware of the cultural phenomenon surrounding his haircut, The Jonny. All without being allowed unsupervised access to the Internet.
While the real world of Bieber or Mahone may not be quite as dramatic as Valentine’s turns out to be, the core idea that these world-famous young men are simply going through the motions in their interviews and dependent on their fans to help them leverage enough power to stay in power, never mind in control, of their careers is fascinating.
-Courtney E. Smith, Radio.com