Sold-out concerts, screaming fans, TV shows, Number Ones. This is the rock and roll dream, and the Wonderkids are living it. But something’s wrong. The gigs are sold out, sure, but the halls are packed with little kids—not sexy hipsters. And that screaming? It sounds more wailing, actually. The TV appearances are PBS on Saturday morning, rather than Saturday Night Live, and as for Number Ones . . . you don’t want to know.
Exposed in his impressionable youth to the absurdist literature of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, the Wonderkids’ lead singer, songwriter, and resident mad genius Blake Lear has always written lyrics as silly as they are infectious. Why make sense, he says, when nonsense is so much more fun? Rock and roll has always been for the kids, right?
This is why Blake has no objection when the band is offered a deal with the devil: the Wonderkids will be rock stars, adored and revered. The catch? Their audience will be children. They will be a “kindie” band avant la lettre, before the Wiggles and Dan Zanes were a twinkle in Raffi’s eye. The band takes America by storm, and things go very right—until they go very wrong. The temptations of the road are many, and the Wonderkids are big kids, too.
Narrated by Sweet, a boy Blake adopts on a whim, who becomes the band’s disciple, merch guy, amateur psychologist, and—eventually—damage control guru, Wonderkid is a delirious and surprisingly touching novel of the dangers of compromise, thwarted ambition, and fathers and sons, told with tremendous humor and energy by Wesley Stace—the rare writer who is as comfortable inside a rock club as he is inside a bookstore. A backstage epic of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but also sippy cups, pillow fights, and Baby Bjorns, this is Almost Famous through the looking glass.
"Fast-paced and full of details
only a music insider would know, novelist and musician Stace’s latest is a funny, untamed, highly
pleasurable read, a wise and witty visit to a world few of us have experienced"—Booklist
"Stace has a great eye and a lifetime of inside knowledge that he deploys to comic, touching effect."—Portland Oregonian
"In all, Wonderkid is a work of both great wit and deep tenderness. It’s a tale of raucous lost boys written by an author with an exacting eye, but who also truly feels for these misfits."—Philadelphia City Paper
“Wesley Stace has always been the only genuinely gifted fiction writer who also happens to be a rock star, but Wonderkid is the book he was born to write. And if you prefer your novels brazen, poignant and hilarious, as I do, you were born to read it. Like a great show, this will stay with you long after the last cymbal crash and power strum.” —Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts
“Wesley Stace has written one of the very few novels about rock bands and the music business that doesn’t have a single false note or outsider-wannabe pretensions. It’s a relief—and a joy—to read about the weird particularities of the lives of musicians by someone who knows the world so intimately. He deconstructs, with an elegant and sharp eye, the heightened sense of the unreality of fame, the relentless grind of touring, and the Ego and the Id made deliciously manifest in the Wonderkids (my favorite new band). He is both ruthless and compassionate, but never cynical. I thought about these characters even when I wasn’t reading the book, and the story will stay with me for a very long time. Wonderkid has both enormous entertainment value and serious literary worth, a very hard trick to pull off.” —Rosanne Cash, author of Composed
“Highly pleasurable. And unusual, not least because this is a rock ’n’ roll novel written by someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.” —Peter Carey, author of The Chemistry of Tears
“Rock ’n’ roll is an infantile business, but never more so than in the hands of the Wonderkids, a group of post-teens, playing music for pre-teens, whilst living chaotic adult lives. In Wonderkid, Wesley Stace absolutely captures the band experience: the triumphs, the letdowns, the sell-outs, the success, and the scandal, with an extra helping of absurdity. There were times reading this book that I could actually smell the dank dressing rooms, or feel the bus rolling down the highway to the next gig.” —Peter Buck
“Finally, a sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll book for Dan Zanes fans! Wonderkid also happens to be one of the best books about fathers and sons since Turgenev.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure
“I can’t believe that this amazing book exists. Wonderkid is by far the best music novel I’ve ever read, and the most unexpectedly wild ride I’ve ever been on. Every detail is perfect. Do you want to read about the music business? Family dynamics? Children’s entertainment? The often uneasy relationship between the US and the UK? The creative process? This book lays it all out with love and wild imagination. Wonderkid is uplifting, inspiring, unhinged, and unpredictable, just like rock ’n’ roll itself.” —Dan Zanes
“Wesley Stace’s Wonderkid is a marvelous satiric mashup of rock ’n’ roll and pack ’n’ plays. It’s sweet and funny and knowing—and this is me, holding up my lighter for more.” —Joshua Ferris, author of The Unnamed
“At turns illuminating and heartbreaking—but always funny—Wonderkid is A Visit from the Goon Squad for the kiddie music world. A pitch-perfect excavation into the lighter heart of the music industry.” —Colin Meloy
“Wonderkid is a gem, a rock ’n’ roll novel written from the inside, with an insider’s knowledge of music and the music business, and all the exhilaration and indignities that come with the territory. Wesley Stace is a wise and witty guide to the career of Blake Lear and the Wonderkids, a fictional band that becomes so real over the course of the novel that you’ll think you heard them on the radio.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Nine Inches
“Wesley Stace writes with verve, pace, and great good humor. Wonderkid is a flamboyant novel about rock ’n’ roll, sex and drugs, broken dreams, and Brits on tour in America. Buy it at once.” —Patrick McGrath, author of Constance
A perfectly pitched coming-of-age novel that’s as playful and provocative as rock music itself. . . Stace brings the road alive with exquisitely authentic details. . . The familiarity is entirely engaging, and it’s likely that you’ll worry about the band’s trajectory, the looming loss of innocence, and probably the fate of rock music. Stace doesn’t take things in the usual direction, though, so don’t give up on these guys. In the end, they prove that the spirit of rock and roll might grow up a bit, but, indeed, it never dies. –ForeWord Reviews
"A whimsical novel of the rock industry that frequently delights with its wry humor and insider’s knowledge." —Kirkus Reviews
"Loud, funny, and entertaining in the extreme . . . A real insiders’ look into life on tour." —Bookreporter
"Delicious . . . Stace is a writer of considerable verve and accomplishment . . . Stace has a great eye and a lifetime of inside knowledge that he deploys to comic, touching effect." —Portland Oregonian
"A bittersweet coming-of-age story . . . Wonderkid is a work of both great wit and deep tenderness. It’s a tale of raucous lost boys written by an author with an exacting eye, but who also truly feels for these misfits." —Philadelphia City Paper
"If Stace’s latest novel, his fourth, rings true, it’s because he is writing what he knows. For 25 years, he performed smart indie rock under the pseudonym John Wesley Harding . . . A great rock ’n’ roll novel." —Boston Globe
"Wesley Stace writes with verve, pace and great good humor. Wonderkid is a flamboyant novel about rock 'n' roll, sex and drugs, broken dreams, and Brits on tour in America. Buy it at once."—Patrick McGrath, author of Asylum
"Wesley Stace has written one of the very few novels about rock bands and the music business that doesn't have a single false note or outsider-wannabe pretensions. It's a relief—and a joy—to read about the weird particularities of the lives of musicians by someone who knows the world so intimately. He deconstructs, with an elegant and sharp eye, the heightened sense of the unreality of fame, the relentless grind of touring, and the Ego and the Id made deliciously manifest in the Wonderkids (my favorite new band). He is both ruthless and compassionate, but never cynical. I thought about these characters even when I wasn't reading the book, and the story will stay with me for a very long time. Wonderkid has both enormous entertainment value and serious literary worth, a very hard trick to pull off." —Rosanne Cash