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May 16, 2008

Book Notes - Tara Altebrando ("What Happens Here")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Tara Altebrando's second young adult novel, What Happens Here, is a stunning example of the current renaissance in young adult fiction. Altebrando creates believable characters dealing with life-changing issues in a well-written novel that entertains without being overly sentimental.

Thanks to Tara for her third Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay (the first two were for her adult fiction works published under the name of Tara McCarthy, Love Will Tear Us Apart and Wouldn't Miss It for the World).

Author Sara Zarr wrote of the book:

""A compulsively readable tale of complicated friendships, life-changing loss, and the search for authentic experience in a world full of artifice."


In her own words, here is Tara Altebrando's Book Notes essay for her novel, What Happens Here:

My first book for young adults, The Pursuit of Happiness, was written entirely to the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Probably wouldn’t have made for a very interesting Book Notes. But here I am, a few years down the line, with my second YA book being published. It’s called What Happens Here, but it had a few other titles along the way, one of which was Eye in the Sky—because the main characters are two longtime best friends who live in Las Vegas and are sort of obsessed with surveillance cameras and satellite images. I somehow managed to avoid the Alan Parsons Project song entirely while writing—okay, it wasn’t that hard—and then I changed the title again, to Exploding Hearts, because, well…maybe I’ll just dig in:


Exploding Hearts: Guitar Romantic

What Happens Here is largely about learning how to cope with tragedy, learning how to live with all the awful shit that happens in the world. [Suffice it to say that something BAD happens in the book, something I’d rather not give away, and it tears these two girls and their families apart.] I was introduced to Exploding Hearts after the car accident that killed three of the band’s four members so I’ve never been able to listen to Guitar Romantic uninfluenced by the band’s tragic story. This lends the record, for me, a sort of shocking amount of poignancy and sadness. Even though the title of my book eventually changed yet again, there is still a moment where Chloe, the narrator, imagines her own heart—and God’s—exploding with the pain of the modern world. All of which sounds unbearably corny in this context, but hopefully not in the book.


Elvis: “Viva Las Vegas”/Frank Sinatra: “Luck be a Lady”

You can’t write a set mostly in Vegas without listening to these two songs at least a few times. Can you? Well, I couldn’t. They helped put me in a Vegas state of mind.


Silversun Pickups: “Lazy Eye”

I feel like the lyric “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life/But it’s not quite right” pretty much sums up adolescence. Chloe’s goes on a trip to Europe with her family—a trip she’s been dreaming about forever—and once she’s there, there are all sorts of mixed emotions that come up that she hadn’t been expecting. Also, if there’s one thing that Silversun Pickups excels at—and I think there are several—it’s building songs to these raging climaxes (see also: “Kissing Families”). I think both of my YA books so far strive to build to that one moment where it feels like everything is on the line.


Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax” “Two Tribes”

I went to Europe with my family the summer between 8th grade and high school so when I was writing about Chloe’s trip I wanted to do a few things to try to put me back in the frame of mind I’d had when I’d first gone abroad. I had a journal from the trip that provided some pretty hilarious insights, but I also decided to go back to some of the music of the time. On our trip, my brother decided to buy the #1 and #2 singles on the music charts in each of the three countries we went to—England, France, Italy—and it just so happened that Frankie Goes to Hollywood held both slots the week we were there. This was my introduction to the band and, really, to Brit Pop/new wave/what have you and I dare say it changed my life.


Built to Spill, “Carry the Zero”

I go through these phases a few times a year wherein I honestly cannot get over how great Built to Spill are. I picked “Carry the Zero” as a sort of emotional touchstone for the character of Noah, the book’s main love interest. He’s a sort of mysterious, tragic guy and the song works for some reason. I have no idea what it’s about, but as a former math team–type I like that there’s a math metaphor. I think of Built to Spill as the band that you marry after maybe going out with The Killers for a month or two and the Arcade Fire for a couple of years.


Tara Altebrando and What Happens Here links:

the author's website
the author's Livejournal
the author's MySpace page
the book's page at the publisher
Tara McCarthy website (the author's adult fiction nom de plume)

Little Willow review
Teen Book Review review

the author's Book Notes essay for her novel Love Will Tear Us Apart
the author's Book Notes essay for her novel Wouldn't Miss It for the World
Slayground interview with the author
Teen Book review guest blog by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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