Friday, February 5, 2010

The Band for All Generations

A certain song can transport us back to a moment; an album brings back in a rush details from a certain period of our lives.

For Penny Lane Bloom in The Lonely Hearts Club, the Beatles play her life’s soundtrack. She’s a modern teen and, by all rights, she admits she should be rebelling against the Fab Four, since her parents are fanatics. The couple met at a makeshift vigil in Chicago after John Lennon’s death, all three of their girls are named for prominent Beatles characters—along with Penny Lane, Lucy (“in the sky with diamonds”) and (lovely) Rita; and the Blooms will not abide knockoff bands. But Penny sees the wisdom of the Beatles’ lyrics (each section of the novel begins with a quote from a song), and hears the genius in their music, and she proudly hangs their posters on her bedroom walls. So when she gets jilted, who can blame her for turning to the only men who’ve been true: John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Penny is a girl-next-door; she’s someone you know or grew up with (“...there beneath the blue suburban skies...”). She’s down to earth and no-nonsense. And that’s what makes her belief in the kind of true love that the Beatles sing about (“All you need is love…”) so compelling. When she realizes that her childhood flame is not the eternal one she’d hoped it would be, she decides it’s better to be true to herself than to abide by the “unwritten rules” of male-female dynamics. She will not compromise herself or her values for someone who does not value her. She swears off guys until she graduates and though she begins alone in the Lonely Hearts Club, she soon attracts many more young women through her example. When romance comes to Penny again, it’s in the form of a friendship that evolves into something more, with someone who respects the principles that led to the founding of her club.

It’s impossible to read this book and not hear the Beatles’ songs in your head. So why not give in to it? Get out an old Beatles album or two, and either play them while your teen is in earshot or leave them out where your teen can find them. There’s a reason the Beatles speak to generation after generation.

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