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Beth's Review: For The Death of Dustin Essary (A Music Novel) by Tim McDonald

Author Provided Copy Publisher: Self-Published Genre: Music Novel Length: Part 1-5 Format: eBook Buy Links

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A selfish, neurotic, particularly naïve 13-year-old kid named Tim (me) lives a typical adolescence until his best friend Dustin Essary shares with him a series of extraordinary dreams—and the fact that he has cancer. Dustin tragically dies that summer of 1978, which impacts Tim for the rest of his life and brings about a strange, musical experience that helps him process the whole thing. Set in Phoenix, Arizona, this true-life experience leads to the writing of three songs more than 30 years later that evoke the dreams Dustin shared with Tim decades before.

This is autobiographical fiction, folks, so don’t get too excited. Most of it’s true, though.

Four Boundless Stars

While reading The Death of Dustin Essary we are taken through the lives of two 13 year old boys, Tim and Dustin. These are typical “middle class America” kids during summer break in the late seventies; they ride bikes, sneak smokes and beg adults to buy beer, in order to bring a little entertainment in their long summer days.

Tim tells how their friendship grows, despite his jealousy. “Dustin always gets better stuff” than he does; which explains how Dustin’s family were able to move into a wealthier part of town during the summer. While Tim misses his friend, he rarely expresses his emotions. He is just “tired of all his friends moving.”

Tim continues to enjoy his summer after Dustin moves; he hangs out with new friends and has an uneventful summer, until he gets a phone call towards the end of the summer. Dustin’s mom is inviting Tim to come spend the night at their new home. He is excited about getting to see his friend again, and then he learns his friend has cancer. Much like any 13 year old, he doesn’t know how to respond to such terrible news. He focuses on enjoy his time with Dustin, and cries when he gets home.

Though this is a sad story, I enjoyed reading it. This was the first musical novel I've read and I enjoyed the songs. They brought me back to my nights of listening to open-mic artists in the bars.

I liked reading the book, I couldn't help but think of how much better it would be as an audio book. I would enjoy hearing the book told in the same dialog, using the voice of a 13 year old boy, along with the voices of all the other characters. I can hear the music playing in the background as the story is told and the songs playing between the chapters. The lyrics can be included in the case for the listeners that want to read them too.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars, as I said, I enjoyed reading it.

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