Loved-it, Memoirs, NetGalley, Non-fiction, Women's

A Rock’n’roll Memoir About Learning To Love Yourself Dear Reflection by Jessica Bell

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★★★★✬  4.5 stars

Emotional review coming up. Get your napkins ready!

When I requested this title, I was excited, because hey – a rock’n’roll teens memoir? Written by someone whose parents were actually musicians, bohemians? Man, that sounds good. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

punk rock

Then when I let it sit for a bit, I was a little apprehensive. There will be lots of sex and drugs, won’t there? I’m not really one to go for that sort of thing. I was always too nerdy and timid for that. To the extent where it still makes me uncomfortable to even read about it.

But then I decided that responsibilities are responsibilities, and I have to do what I promised (which is, read it and write a review). And then, there must have been something in the blurb that attracted me, right?

And there indeed was.

When I started reading this, I realized it wasn’t at all what I expected. Yes, there was sex and there were drugs, and a whole lot of awful life-decisions, but. They were not told through the eyes of an entitled posh rock kid. They were told through the voice of a woman – who, although she was a rebel, was every bit as misunderstood, bullied and harassed as I was when I was growing up. Which made reading this book an immensely rewarding and captivating experience – because it’s as if I was reading my own life story, but backwards – what if I would have made all those opposite decisions? What if I’d chosen everything backwards from how I did? The author of this memoir had the same exact experiences in terms of emotions, sometimes – even the same exact things happen to her, to the point of it feeling eerie. She always felt like I did, she drew the exact conclusions, reacted emotionally the same. Was exposed to the same trauma. And yet, she chose all those things I didn’t choose (to have or not to have sex with absolutely anyone, to take or not to take drugs, to try suicide or not). All those things I thought I was too coward to choose to do. But Jessica Bell, bless her dear heart, made me realize that nothing good would have come of those. And I have nothing to regret losing.

In this book, we get lots of glimpses into Jessica’s childhood, her teens, her youth. She writes well, and not only that – she gives those lovely little windows into the past – videos of her parents’ band, childhood photos, the recordings of her teen band (they’re actually awesome and I will probably listen to them!). All of that makes her life so real, so emotional and approachable. That was what made me gobble up the book in an evening and the next morning. It felt like an experience. I pretty much saw her do all those things.

Jessica talks about her poor choices and especially of her self-hatred very openly. It’s like she’s confiding in us, or, as it is voiced in the book – to her reflection, which is the one who judged and hated her all her life. She indirectly talks a lot about how crippling self-hate and self-shaming is, and how to overcome it. If you have suffered this in your life, I strongly recommend this book. It will help you connect with your own feelings.

It also talks a lot about bullying. How it’s a vicious cycle, like an ouroboros that feeds on itself, and once you get into that circle, it will never stop affecting your decisions and actions, until you become your own bully when the other bullies are gone. Ultimately, it’s what ended up happening to me after I graduated school (as I was viciously bullied), and I struggle with the wounds up to this day. And probably always will. The way she describes how bullying made her into her own bully is eye-opening. I always knew that was a thing, but through lack of someone to talk to about it, didn’t give it more depth. And it’s just so liberating to see someone lay these thoughts out on paper, validate them in your head. If you’ve been bullied too, this will resonate with you.

The book also talks about the very delicate and fragile connection we have with our parents, and the need we experience to be loved. And how we can be made to believe we aren’t. Jessica grew up with a mother who suffered chronic pain, and that was an ordeal on its own. Although my mother didn’t have these challenges in life, I found Jessica and her mother’s relationship so much like mine and my mom’s, it has also helped me understand some things, and realize where I should have been thankful to her, and where things were not quite how they seemed.

All in all, this book was a great, touching and very eye-opening experience for me. I don’t know if it would be the same for you, because it seems I have so much in common with the author in a deep sense, that it was just extremely relevant for me. But if you’ve struggled with any of these in your life, you could benefit from this book. I could not recommend it more.

A big thank you to Cameron Publicity&Marketing and Jessica Carmen Bell for giving me the opportunity to read this book prior to publishing. I have received a copy in exchange for my honest review, and I feel like honest it was. From the depths of my heart.

Do you read a lot of memoirs? Are any of them “rock’n’roll”?

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Savanah | Off-Color Literature

I love this! I am so very excited to read it, now. It reminds me a lot of one I read recently called How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. It was full of a lot of the same stuff: bullying, rock and roll, sex and partying. It wasn’t a memoir exactly, but the author said a lot of her life leaked into it. It was SO good. You may want to check it out 😉 Thanks for getting so personal in your review! I think it’s awesome that you put it out there that the themes may not… Read more »

Brian Joseph
4 years ago

Great commentary on this book.

I am a lifelong fan of Rock and I tend to like Rock memoirs. I am also interested in less famous musicians. This sounds very good. The themes seem fascinating. I would like to give this a read.

Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

I’m glad this ended up working out so well for you! That sounds amazing that you were able to relate SO much to her. It sounds like this book really includes some important messages, and this is a great review 🙂

Jessica Bell
Jessica Bell
4 years ago

Thank you so much for this remarkable review. I am absolutely honoured.

4 years ago

Glad this was so rewarding! I’ve always been a rock fan so I can imagine this would be interesting. Even if we make different choices, sometimes the situations people have found themselves in are so similar, it helps to see how they reacted to them?

Jackie B.
4 years ago

Wow. I just sat here for a few moments after reading this post. Thank you, Evelina, for being so open and honest about your reactions to this memoir. It sounds like there is so much in this book which spoke to you. I’m sure there are many moments you didn’t address in your review, even. You are so brave to address these in an open forum like this. I’m sorry you experienced such troublesome moments, but I’m so glad that Jessica Bell was able to show you that you made good choices and are on the path you belong on.… Read more »

4 years ago

I haven’t read any memoirs, or anything quite like this, I think. It sounds intense, and thought-provoking too. Not entirely sure if it’s my cup of tea — i think I have to digest your review a bit more.

Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium
Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium
4 years ago

Man, I’m gonna have to drop everything and read The Breedling And The City In The Garden and I Never Meant to be a Rebel if you keep going like this about it!! LOL! Seriously I don’t know what I love more gangsters or story about high school challenges, bullying, anxiety and depression 🙂

4 years ago

Sounds really interesting!!