Dutton / Penguin, 2008
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Somebody Everybody Listens To
Retta Lee Jones is blessed with a beautiful voice and has big dreams of leaving her tiny Tennessee hometown. So with a beaten-down car, a pocketful of hard-earned waitressing money, and stars in her eyes, Retta sets out to make it big in Nashville. But the road to success isn’t a smooth one, and a girl’s gotta figure out who she can trust in a town full of showmen and scammers. Soon Retta begins to have doubts: Can she make her mark and still stay true to herself?
Awards and Recognition
Politics and Prose 2010 “Summer Favorite” in the PG-15 category
“Reading about Retta Lee Jones’s journey to Nashville was a lot like reading my own diary, except she had prettier boots. It’s a wonderful story about dreams and determination that reminds us all to squeeze the most out of every single day.” (Dolly Parton)
“Propelled by her best friend’s belief in her musical talent, recent high school grad Retta Lee Jones leaves self-doubt, clingy parents, and her smalltown life behind and heads to Nashville, determined to make her name in country music. Hard knocks (she damages the car she borrowed from her great-aunt right away) and kind strangers (the tow-truck driver becomes an ally) introduce her to her new home, and neither are in short supply. Understanding that genuine talent alone won’t open doors for her, Retta lives out of her car, bathes in public sinks, and studies the industry, searching for a way to break in. These concrete challenges prove less daunting than the guilt-inducing pull of home, as her parents’ unhappy marriage dissolves without her. Biographical notes about country stars like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and Carrie Underwood introduce each chapter and highlight each star’s “big break,” providing inspiration for both Retta and readers. While a mustread for country music lovers, Supplee’s (Artichoke’s Heart) latest will appeal to a wide audience, especially those who long to pursue a dream against the odds. ” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
“After graduating from high school in a small Tennessee town, Retta dreams of making it to Nashville and becoming a country music star. But even with her beautiful voice, how can she get there? And who will listen? How can she leave her parents, who barely speak to each other? Retta does make it to Nashville, though, and she sleeps in her car; works a day job; and finds kindness, friendship, and good luck, as well as violence and cruelty. Country music fans will grab this for the details of the steel guitars, banjos, and fiddles and the legendary landmarks; at the start of each chapter, there is a page-long bio of a famous star, from Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash, that discusses the musicians’ hardscrabble lives and success. Retta’s personal story is filled with classic young-adult conflicts. Should she go back and help Daddy after Mama leaves? The beautiful song she writes about the push and pull of home has a message every teen can relate to: ‘Just me in the middle, wondering who I should love.’” (Booklist, Hazel Rochman)
“‘Dolly or Loretta or Tammy or Emmylou … my voice is just like Play-Doh®: it can take on any shape I want,’ says recent high-school graduate Retta Lee Jones. Now the country-singer hopeful is ready to leave behind her best friend, a potential boyfriend and her dysfunctional parents to find her own voice in Nashville. She thinks she is prepared for the hard road ahead, until she’s faced with hunger, living in her car and a mugging. Constantly doubtful, Retta draws inspiration from previous country stars before making her way to open-mic night at the Mockingbird (which is based on Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe) and claims the attention of a local critic. Her hardships and lucky breaks may seem far-fetched until they’re compared with the real-life bios that open and frame each chapter. From Retta’s cravings for Sundrop soda to the twangy speech of the auto mechanic who rescues her from homelessness, this chick-lit story with a Southern flair features a host of characters from all walks of life. It begs for a playlist.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Retta Lee Jones is an aspiring country singer from Starling, a small Tennessee town. Everyone in Starling knows Retta is talented, but a beautiful voice cannot fix her parents’ marriage or pay the bills. All she clings to is a dream to make it in Nashville.
Following her high school graduation, and despite her mother’s objections, Retta scrapes together her limited savings to spend the summer working in Music City. Some unfortunate circumstances (a parking ticket, a fender-bender, a mugging) force her to sleep in her car, but they also put her in the path of kind-hearted people. She meets a mechanic who offers her a job answering phones in his auto shop to pay for the repairs, and a bookstore clerk befriends her and lends her books about the country music business. When Retta gets a poor-paying job singing at a shabby hotel, the hotel manager’s young son lets her sleep in a vacant room for free. The hotel bartender, a fellow musician, offers her valuable advice: Quit imitating country legends and sing your own music. Before long, her luck changes when she catches the attention of a well-known local columnist. But the path to fame is often paved with potholes, and Retta must decide if becoming a Nashville star is even possible.
As in her previous book, Artichoke’s Heart, Suzanne Supplee peppers Somebody Everybody Listens To with a lush Southern setting, endearing characters and honest first-person narration. Retta is a hard-working soul who just needs a lucky break, and readers will root for her to rise above her humble circumstances. In addition, Supplee precedes each chapter with a brief biography of a country legend, such as Patsy Cline, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton. These entries highlight the difficult road to stardom and complement Retta’s own struggles and successes. After reading that Dolly Parton was one of 12 children or that Shania’s real name is Eileen Edwards, teen readers might be motivated to do their own research and learn more. And although the country bios add a fun touch to the novel, teens do not need to be fans of country music to be fans of Suzanne Supplee.” (Bookpage, Kimberly Garnick Giarratano)
“Retta has a big voice and big dreams: as soon as she graduates high school, she’s leaving her small town of Starling, Tennessee, for Nashville to pursue her goal of being a singer. Encouraged by her best friend and a boy she’s crushing on, she borrows her great-aunt’s car, and she’s off. Things don’t go smoothly, but she manages, through the kindness of a tow-truck driver working out his repentance for a less-than-admirable past, to find a steady job and a place to stay while she sings at an all-but-abandoned motel lounge. There, she meets a crotchety bartender with just the right advice, and she perseveres despite setbacks that ultimately deepen her spirit and resolve. Retta is a thoroughly credible, thoroughly likable character—loyal, hardworking, and utterly ordinary, except for her exceptional talent. She’s done her homework on the bios of her favorite country singers, which are included as interstitial factoids between chapters, and which make her own path seem reasonable and realistic. Her reflection on her parents’ relationship, which falls apart when she leaves, proceeds along a thoughtful track from a relatively immature blame game to a more complex understanding of the ways in which both she and her father have not attended to what her mother cared about, an insight that is subtly related to the reasons behind her determination to pursue her own dreams. Her narrative voice is as solid as her singing voice is portrayed to be, making her story compulsively readable and ultimately inspiring.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Karen Coats)