Cherry Bomb review in NZ’s Coup de Main

When I first read the title of this book, I was instantly reminded of The Runaways song of the same name, and that punk-rock feel of the song is incredibly well-suited to the debut novel of Jenny Valentish. The novel is the story of a fictional band called The Dolls and their complete rock and roll story – something Valentish has had experience with through her long career in the music industry, from writing for NME, interviewing artists such as Joan Jett, and editing the Triple J magazine. This experience has culminated into ‘Cherry Bomb’, a fast-paced novel which takes you along for the ride as The Dolls (made up of cousins Rose and Nina Dall) rise to fame.

I must state this warning in advance that the book can be incredibly explicit (both sexually and with language) in some parts – but if you can deal with that, then the novel is incredibly accurate in portraying the life and times of the rock and roll music industry – and all the drugs and sex that are presumed to go alongside this lifestyle. The book is set in the present day but references a lot of old-school rock (not just through the title) – but in the back there is a playlist for each chapter of the book, something I wish I knew in advance because I would’ve listened to the songs as I read through the book!

There are certain elements of the book that are incredibly clever – I love that Nina always describes the outfits herself and Rose are wearing to highlight their punk-look, but it also creates much more distinct imagery, and also opposes Rose and Nina against one another further:
“I wore: pastel pink Mad Mac hair with plaits and feathers; silver lamé off-the-shoulder dress; motorcycle boots.
Rose wore: lilac fake fur jacket; wet-look black jeans, vest top, beret and hologram sunnies.”

If you’ve ever wanted to know the inner workings of a band and their management – then this is the book for you. It was intriguing to see the relationship between the cousins change as they become more famous as the novel goes on, and it made me consider what the relationship is like between bands in real-life, as what is portrayed to the media is never the full story. Valentish invites you into the world of burning down hotel rooms and brawls – stories you only ever hear about in the news. The story is an enthralling and interesting depiction of an exclusive V.I.P. world that is otherwise unknown to the everyday person, which is why I think I enjoyed it so much.

Read the book club page here