How the Mistakes Were Made by Tyler McMahon
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Published on: October 11, 2011
Page Count: 352
My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Paperback and eBook
Note: While it’s not relevant to the review, I loved that author Tyler McMahon gave a shout out in this novel to shoegaze, my current music obsession.
Laura Loss is a punk legend of sorts. She was the younger sister of Anthony Loss, the lead singer of Second Class Citizen, or SCC, a much lauded early punk band. Due to her own interest in music and their family situation, Anthony adds Laura to SCC as the base player. She’s underage at the time and grows up in the spotlight of passionate and often violent punk fans. After a tragic incident kills SCC, Laura continues in the music business in other underground bands than never seem to go anywhere until she meets Nathan and Sean, two younger men from Montana. She notices their talent at a show and gives them her phone number on a lark. When they take her up on her offer to help them get serious about their music, the Mistakes were made in more way than one. From the beginning the reader knows that she will join Yoko Ono’s club and be demonized for destroying the Mistakes. She wants to set the record straight.
If there was a ever a novel that was perfect for me right here where I am now, it’s How the Mistakes Were Made. The music coming out of Seattle from the late 80s into the mid 90s laid the framework for what I’m sure will be lifelong musical preferences. Sure, I love the pop and new wave music of the 80s, but I came of age with grunge music. When offered a review copy, I couldn’t pass it up, regardless of the close publication date. I was in no way disappointed. I was immediately sucked into Laura’s life and read the novel in a 24 hour period. Had I had uninterrupted time, I would have finished it in a sitting. Really, who needs sleep, food or even a bathroom break when a once in a lifetime band is forming and soon thereafter imploding right in front of you? Not I.
I am very excited about this book. It makes me wish I was in a book club with my good friends from that time. I’m sure that they would all love it and it would make for great discussions about living in the 90s, the role a band’s structure and relationships impact their music, what fans owe bands and what bands owe fans. Outside of the music environment, it would start an excellent discussion on how men and women use sex to get what they want, be it a gift to another person or a weapon to be used to maim or kill. The role of the sexual act as well as gender are everywhere in this novel. Rock bands are typically be top heavy in men, so it’s rather easy and convenient to blame a female influence when things turn ugly. How much of that ugliness can be directly attributed to the woman? How much of the blame is placed there simply because it’s easier for the male band members to bury their own failures? Isn’t it easier for fans to demonize an outside force than to think less of their beloved rock heroes?
Pull out your Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sugar, L7, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, clear off your most comfortable reading space and settle in for How the Mistakes Were Made. Tyler McMahon’s writing and storytelling will take you back to the time when underground music was just breaking through to the mainstream. It was an exciting time to be alive and I loved every single minute of Laura’s journey.