Oh, 1979. The year of The Amityville Horror and the Tube Top. The year of I Will Survive and Three’s Company. The year of Farrah Fawcett and the ubiquity of My Sharona, the latter being the soundtrack to Brian Humek’s whimsical and enjoyable Summer of Sharona.
Set in 1979, the verge of a new decade and the emergence of new culture and music, Summer of Sharona can perhaps be defined as a coming of age tale with the heart of a lion and the cultural references of the best reality show that ever existed.
Fifteen year old Ashley is full of angst and emotions. What fifteen year old isn’t? But Ashley’s tumult is fairly justified in its veracity. Her mother has married a mentally unstable man, and disco is vanishing right before her very eyes. After witnessing first hand Disco Demolition Night, a true event on July 12, 1979 where a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field between games of the twi-night doubleheader between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, Ashley is thrown onto the trajectory of becoming an adult and making adult decisions. Despite being only fifteen, Ashley soon learns that 1979 was truly a year where her life, and the entire world, changed forever.
My enjoyment of Summer of Sharona cannot be expressed enough. It’s got the nostalgia that made Freaks and Geeks a pivotal addition to the pop culture canon, and the wit and sarcasm of a genius savant. The cultural references are perfect and timed at just the right moments to make the story even more vibrant and endearing as it progress. The dialogue is crisp and authentic, allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the final days of the 70’s. Reading Summer of Sharona is almost like that moment when you decide to take a look at your old yearbooks. You instantly remember the urgency and desperation for inclusion, but with the satisfaction of knowing you survived the turbulence of it all.