A stranger rolls into town, and everything changes…
…especially for Austin Methune, when the stranger turns out to be his father, presumed dead, and his father turns out to be Shane Tucker, a big-time musician — just the role Austin wants for himself.
Austin has a long history of getting himself into trouble, with the assistance of weed, inertia, and indifference. And he’s in deep trouble now — the deepest ever. He’s talented, though. Maybe his famous father will help him turn his life around and realise his musical dream.
But maybe Austin has inherited more than talent from Shane, who also does drugs, screws up, and drops out.
Austin is a tour guide to his own bad decisions and their consequences as he is dragged, kicking and screaming, toward adulthood.
As soon as I saw this book was being paired with The Other Side of Summer — which I adored — in Penguin’s little chart of their favourite books for each category, I knew I just had to pick it up. The category was ‘Musical’, and that definitely played a major role in this novel and it was really great to find myself immersed in the snippets of song we were exposed to throughout the novel, especially at the beginning of each chapter. But The Bad Decisions Playlist isn’t just a book about music. Sure, it’s about music, but it’s also about family and friendship and expressing yourself. It’s a book about love and loss and learning to live with what you’ve got, knowing you’re not able to go back to the past and change things. It’s a book that you definitely can’t miss out on reading.
Perhaps what I love most about this book is the symbolism Austin’s half-finished songs conveys to the reader and how it can be interpreted in so many different ways. Austin not finishing the songs that come to him isn’t just him being lazy or having a creative block. To me, I really felt as though these unfinished songs represented the piece of him he felt was missing after assuming his father was dead for so long. Or maybe it represented the part of him that he hadn’t fully discovered yet, discovering who he truly is and where he fit into the world, and while I feel like that’s a common theme amongst a lot of YA novels, this book was in no way cliched or ordinary and I feel like everyone will take something different from it.
There were moments when I either loved or hated our main character, Austin, but overall I felt like he was an interesting narrator and I enjoyed getting to know him and his background. I think the thing that annoyed me most about him was that slightly irritating and pretty rude to a lot of people, and that didn’t really change until he wanted to improve for the sake of possibly winning over a girl. While I liked seeing his growth, I think I would have connected more with him if he grew because of his self-realisation that he wasn’t exactly a nice human and because he wanted to change for himself. Instead, changing for the sake of someone else always seems to rub me off on the wrong way because I feel like the character isn’t really their own person and is simply dictated by the thoughts and actions of another.
That being said, Austin was still a really fun character to be around. He was witty and even when he was being a bit of a douche, his funny remarks never failed to put a smile on my face. And I also loved that he was honest. He introduced himself, and opened the novel, by saying that he’s lazy and a coward and will do pretty much anything for a girl, which I liked. Yes, he was a bit of a tool, but at least he was honest about it. But perhaps my favourite scenes were between him and Josephine. These two characters had really great dynamics and their banter was humorous and incredibly realistic. Similarly, all the other characters felt authentic and all conveyed their individual voice and allowed us to view them as fully-formed people, not just plot devices.
The Bad Decisions Playlist is a very funny, though sometimes cringe-worthy, story about a sixteen-year-old who just can’t seem to get the whole ‘life’ thing right. Michael Rubins offers an honest and insightful meditation on the complexities of teenage life, the difficulties of falling in love, and the struggle to have your voice heard, and I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read that will leave you smiling.
Have you picked up The Bad Decisions Playlist yet? Do you read many books that are based around music? Do characters that constantly make bad decisions frustrate you? Are you a fan of little ‘extras’ at the beginning of chapters, like snippets of songs in this instance? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!