Streetlights Like Fireworks by David Pandolfe

David Pandolfe sounds great in his author bio, and so does the synopsis of this YA novel, so I downloaded it, gave it the usual page-one test, and kept turning pages. All the way to the end. That’s quite a tribute to ANY author, to hold my attention, even while I’m shaking my maternal head in disapproval. Let me emphasize that it takes a lot just to get me to read the first page. I scan synopses every day, passing up nine out of ten books, but this one caught my eye:

Psychic flashes, haunting visions, missing persons and visits from ghosts….Jack has been getting on his parents’ nerves for some time. Bad enough he’s a rock musician, has crappy grades and hangs out with his “loser” friends. But Jack’s ability to predict the future—well, that just annoys the hell out of them. 
Jack’s classmate, Lauren, is said to have unique abilities too. 
…Jack would really like to connect with Lauren but can’t figure out how. She’s never looked at him twice. But when he experiences a mystifying event involving a shabby guitar for sale in his favorite music store, visions, voices and spectral visits, Jack figures there’s only one person to help him understand who’s calling out to him and why. Before long, Jack and Lauren are off on a road trip of discovery that could provide answers to a mystery left unsolved for twenty years. 

And so, even though I owe many authors a review (by virtue of their having asked me for one), a guy who doesn’t know I even exist got his book bumped to the top of that long, long queue in my Kindle.

My apologies to all the authors I am neglecting.

Polished, professional prose; reckless teen protagonists; cliff-hanger ending

By Carol Kean  – See all my reviews    (VINE VOICE)

I love the YA genre and those who capture the kind of soul searching that is unique to the adolescent coming of age theme. This is a well written novel with a POV character whose voice is compelling. Jack engages me from page one and holds my attention. But he loses me with a series of irresponsible decisions, justifying his impromptu cross-country road trip because his parents are just so uptight and yet so stifling and apparently unloving. Not a bad premise to start from but his attitude about them doesn’t change at the end. Along the way, he meets other mid-life adults who “settled” for careers, paychecks, homes, spouse and kids, all these soul-killing things that adults inexplicably embrace. Again, a good starting place for the YA protagonist, but please, the author’s politics just muddy the story like that black sock that sneaks into your laundry and turns a load of whites gray. How many more novels will insert snide judgments of people who doubt Al Gore’s version of global warming?

I don’t believe in lowering a 5-star ranking based on the author’s politics. However, if the author inserts political views into the narrative in a way that’s jarring, obvious, and not germane to the story, I get crabby. Add to that the way adults in this novel deliver heart-felt speeches about how their lives are so empty now that they’re married with kids and living above the poverty level of free-spirited bohemies. Even Lauren’s speech about her parents somehow doesn’t sound authentic. I hear the author’s thoughts and reflections, not the heart of a contemporary teen. So…in spite of the polished prose, 3 stars for the overt politics and apparent promotion of renegade teens on the run from parents and responsibility while using stuffy ol’ Dad’s Visa card (until he cuts it off).

Any number of flaws, I might overlook, and rank the story only by how engaging it is. The scene with the school secretary (leading to the janitor in the gym) was annoying but I’d have let it go — until the camp scene and Lauren’s sham being so ridiculous, it’s an insult to adults that a paid professional would buy it.

One thing I must applaud: Jack and Lauren may get drunk at 17 (without consequences) and drive without a legal license (without getting caught), but at least they exercise restraint and common sense about sexual behavior. That’s more than can be said for a lot of teens (and adults), especially in fiction, where sex sells.

Without going into details (which almost always turn into plot spoilers), this novel delivers one lame-brained, irresponsible or untenable idea after another (the guitar swap; the road trips; the Facebook friends we’re to believe are “so cool” but to me were the opposite). In the end, the list of things that annoyed me outweighed the things I liked about the novel, and the ending — a cliff hanger — finally drove me to a 3-star rating, which, come on, is not that bad– three stars mean the book is “okay” but not one I love and would promote to all my friends. I don’t know this author, and he didn’t ask me to review the book. It leaped out at me because of the premise (visions that come true).

Trust the 4-star reviews and consider that I’m a middle-aged mother of three who has no patience for teenagers who do what these two do.

David Pandolfe is the author of three novels, Streetlights Like Fireworks, Jump When Ready and Memories From A Different Future (Jump When Ready #2).

While he’s still writing about himself in third-person, David should probably also mention that he lives outside Richmond, VA, with his wife, two kids and a dog who’s terrified of thunder (not the best situation since it thunders from spring until fall in Richmond).

To learn about upcoming book releases (or other totally random stuff):

My blog:
David Pandolfe on Facebook
@IndieWriterRVA on Twitter

About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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