Book Blurbs is a series of quick-hitting reviews in which our staff dissect and critique music-related books fresh off the presses.
Over the past few months, former Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge has taken quite a tongue-lashing from his erstwhile band mates. Blasted by bassist Mark Hoppus for “holding Blink-182 back” and dissed by drummer Travis Barker as “disrespectful and ungrateful,” these days DeLonge is a persona non grata amongst Blink’s remaining members. But if you think DeLonge’s going to wallow and weep about it, you’re well off the mark.
DeLonge has always been a man-child of many talents, so it’s no great shock that he’s trying his hand at prose. The scope of his proposed project, however, is absolutely astounding. Last spring, he announced that he was in the midst of co-writing 15 novels (!), all of which will be paired with soundtrack albums. Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares is the first book in a Young Adult trilogy that DeLonge is penning alongside New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young. Bolstering his foray into fiction by incorporating audio and visual elements, DeLonge has released an accompanying animated short film (Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker), Angels & Airwaves companion EP (…Of Nightmares), and comic book.
About the Authors:
Tom DeLonge is best known as the guitarist and co-lead singer of Blink-182. But his full resume runs so much deeper. DeLonge was also a driving force behind Blink-182’s ephemeral side project Box Car Racer. After Blink broke up (for the first time) in 2004, he promptly founded supergroup Angels & Airwaves, which DeLonge describes as a band, art project, and multimedia event all rolled into one. The former Blink guitarist also started two successful business ventures: Macbeth Footwear and technology/design firm Modlife. And that’s not all. Back in 2013, DeLong released an acclaimed children’s book titled The Lonely Astronaut on Christmas Eve.
Co-writer Suzanne Young has churned out more than a dozen Young Adult novels, including bestseller The Program, A Need So Beautiful, and The Naughty List. She’s also teaches high school English in Tempe, Arizona.
Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares reads like a blend between Harry Potter and The Matrix. It’s the story of Jonas (“Poet”) Anderson, a lucid-dreaming orphan who must navigate between sleeping and waking worlds to protect wayward dreamers from a creepy Voldemort-esque villain called REM. Jonas learns that he has the rare ability to “tunnel between realities, between the Dream and Waking Worlds” affording him tremendous power and freedom. But there’s a catch: if he dies in the dream world, he’s toast in real life.
During the day, Jonas is an impoverished high school student trying to make ends meet in rain-soaked Seattle. Between visiting his comatose brother in the hospital and working the graveyard shift at a ritzy hotel, he doesn’t have much time for studying or sleep. Jonas’ emotionally and physically demanding commitments cause him to doze during class, and he quickly becomes a social pariah. Luckily, a rich, popular girl with a hyphenated last name takes an interest in poor Jonas, and he falls head over heels. Oh, and it just so happens that she’s a lucid dreamer, too. Isn’t that sweet?
By night, Jonas becomes Poet Anderson, a savior of lost souls and the only person with the power to defeat REM. That also makes him REM’s top target, so he’s constantly fighting off the villain’s metallic, serpentine Night Terror henchmen. Throughout the book, Anderson fights to free his brother from a coma sustained during the opening scene, which involves resisting doctors that try to get him to pull the plug and repelling REM’s attempts to consume his sibling’s soul.
Back when I was a YA reader, I was mainly looking for three things in a novel: relentless action, fantastical imagery, and plenty of profanity. Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares hits the trifecta. Right from the get-go, DeLonge and Young unleash one dramatic scene after another. The co-authors speckle this high-octane action with simple yet striking descriptions, like the old tree that’s said to be “gnarled and crooked in the most imperfect and beautiful way,” and the hotel’s drapes that “flowed in a continuous cascade of red, alive in their own way.” Though the copious cursing is probably cringe-inducing for parents, it’s sure to delight the YA readership. Here are some expletive excerpts from the first chapter alone: “fucking, all-American jock asshole, what the fuck, shitty, fucking cool, fucker.” Gratuitous? Abso-fucking-lutely. But hey, if it gets the kiddies to pick up a fucking book for a change, what’s the big fucking problem?
Despite its strengths, Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares comes off a bit derivative and more than a bit generic. Orphans with special power, dual realities, and outcasts that secretly save the world are all well-worn territory. I’m not sure I’d feel that way if I was 15 years younger, so I’ll let it slide.
If you’ve already sat for the SAT, this book probably isn’t for you. It’s marketed for ages 12 and up, but I’d put the target demographic at 10-15. DeLonge’s animated short and companion EP really enhance the story, and Young’s writing is clear, tight, and concise. Poet Anderson… Of Nightmares isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer, but don’t be surprised if it ends up on the YA bestseller list or the silver screen someday.