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Suzanne Supplee

author and educator

Suzanne Supplee author educator


Somebody Everybody Listens To

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)