Saturday, February 11, 2006

"It's that same problem I had when I was five: 'There is something wrong with me because I seem to see things other people don't see. Am I crazy, or am I a genius?"
--John Lennon

I've often said that if I ever write a book, it will be a biography written for a young adult audience - of high school age. Bios for them just aren't out there; they are either written for adults, and are 450+ pages long, or they're simple, childish looking series biographies aimed at middle-schoolers. That is one of the things that's so great about John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge - and one of the reasons it won a Printz Honor medal. It is "a photographic biography," with lots of pictures - perfect for a teen audience. It's about 230 pages long - perfect for a teen audience. It has an index and notes that can be used for research purposes - perfect for a teen audience. And it's about John Lennon - what could be more perfect for a teen audience?
But even better, Partridge's bio is entirely readable and extremely interesting. It covers Lennon's life from birth to tragic death, and doesn't shrink away from his prejudices and eccentric, sometimes violent, behavior. According to her source notes, Partridge relied heavily on the writings of John himself when writing the bio, going back to his words whenever she was reaching to uncover the man behind the legend. Also relying on quotes from those who knew John best, such as the aunt who raised him, both his wives, and the other Beatles, Partridge describes John's struggles as a youth, his knowledge that he saw the world differently than most, and his rages against the constraints of society. His anger and his rebellious character come through, as does the incredible impact rock & roll had on his young life.
Beatlemania is covered in fairly short order, the book focusing more on the years before and after. John's relationship with Yoko is given good coverage, as are his troubled years following the breakup of the Beatles.
While the short length of the book prevents detailed coverage of most issues and events, Partridge does a great job of packing in what people most want to know, and the many photos add another layer to the story. This is a great biography for the average teen who wants some background on Lennon for research or for the budding Beatles fan who wants to learn more about the band's most controversial member.

Partridge, Elizabeth. John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth. Viking, New York: 2005. ISBN 0-670-05954-4; $24.99

What I'm Reading: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (yes, really this time)
On my bookshelf: Avalon High and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot


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