Save Me, Kurt Cobain (2016) is a young adult novel by Jenny Manzer. Published by Delacorte Press.
What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father? Nicola Cavan has been an outsider since age four when her mother vanished from their home in Victoria, British Columbia. Now 15, Nico is determined to find her beautiful, music-obsessed mother. After glimpsing “Cobain” on a ferry from Seattle, Nico follows the man with the blazing blue eyes to a remote Vancouver Island cabin—and her life will never be the same.
Watch a book trailer here …
My thoughts… Save Me, Kurt Cobain is a wonderfully well-written coming-of-age story as well as a heartfelt love letter to a band whose music ignited a revolution and whose leader became a tortured hero for an entire generation. Nicola “Nico” Cavan is an angsty, 15-year-old girl who lives in Victoria, BC, with her hard-working father Verne. She is obsessed with alternative rock pioneers Nirvana and their late frontman Kurt Cobain. Nico’s best and only friend is Obe. “No one else applied for the job,” she tells us. No one in her high school, save Obe, notices her – except to make fun of her retro ’90s grunge look. Nico’s mother Annalee disappeared when Nico was only 4-years-old but the case went cold leaving Nico with many unanswered questions about her own life. One day, Nico finds a box of Annalee’s CD’s and learns that not only did her mother love Nirvana, too, but that she actually met Kurt Cobain shortly before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” changed the world. Nico begins to believe that Cobain might even be her real father even though she has no reason to doubt that Verne is not her real father despite the fact that he’s been keeping secrets from Nico about Annalee’s life. Then, on a ferry home after visiting her aunt in Seattle, WA, Nico glimpses a middle-aged man who is slight of build, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed. Like Kurt Cobain. Like her. She convinces herself that the iconic grunge rocker who reportedly took his own life in 1994 is alive and well in 2006 and hiding in Canada. So, she decides to follow him to be sure, thus setting off on a journey of her own self-discovery. Save Me, Kurt Cobain is a must-read book for fans of YA fiction and/or Nirvana!
I love that the chapter titles of are named after Nirvana songs. I created a Nirvana playlist which I set to shuffle and, as I started each chapter of the book, I restarted the playlist with the song that inspired the chapter title! Every fan has their top five favorite Nirvana songs so, instead, I’ll list my top five favorite Nirvana cover songs. Yes, they’re all by female-fronted bands! Kurt Cobain himself once said “I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock ‘n’ roll” …
- “Heart-Shaped Box” – Dead Sara
- “Breed” – OTEP
- “Heart-Shaped Box” (Live Acoustic) – Evanescence
- “Rape Me” – detroit7
- “Stay Away” – Pitty
Save Me, Kurt Cobain, at last, completes my list of my five favorite YA books that combine strong female characters and rock music ….
1. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert. Angry young punk Emily Black forms a punk rock band and climbs the ladder of success in hopes that her music will call out to her mother who abandoned her when she was 4 months old, and bring her back home. Emily’s band, She Laughs, is modeled after bands like Hole, The Distillers, etc., and they rise in the wake created by Nirvana‘s phenomenal success. This book is absolutely brilliant! The end – when Emily finds her mother by pure chance and confronts her – is just heartbreaking. Save Me, Kurt Cobain, obviously, is similar to IWBYJR in that both Nico and Emily are driven by the need to find their music-loving mothers. I, too, wrote this theme into my “screenplay” called Summer Cody [which no one but me has ever read even though I am very proud of it]. My story is a romantic drama about a fictional former ’90s alt-rock icon who walked away from her fame and into a self-imposed exile for 15 years until she’s asked by a younger fan to appear in his independent movie filming in her hometown. Summer Cody’s success was driven by her need to find her mother who left her when she was young but when Summer, at the peak of her fame, learned that her mother was dead, her music no longer mattered and she walked away from her success. The truth is that I wrote Summer Cody [in Summer 2012] before I ever even knew that Stephanie Kuehnert’s book [published in 2008] existed and, when I stumbled upon and read it [in late 2012], I was blown away by the epic similarity of our two independently-created ideas! However, the theme is only a small part of my story which is really about Summer re-connecting with her estranged father and her budding romance with the young filmmaker [who is really me]. The mother theme, of course, is central to both IWBYJR and Save Me, Kurt Cobain, but each book develops its story in very different ways and each delivers a very satisfying read. Anyway, if ever IWBYJR were to be adapted into a movie, I hope the filmmakers consider rocker/actress Taylor Momsen [The Pretty Reckless] for the role of Emily Black!
2. Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer.
3. Five Flavors of Dumb by Anton John. Piper Vaughn is a deaf teenager who is tasked with managing Dumb, her high school’s not new alternative rock band. This book is less about Piper coping with deafness than it is about embracing the power of rock music, particularly the sounds of the Pacific Northwest, where the story is set, from Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana! I’m hoping one day that ABC Family will adapt Five Flavors of Dumb into a series. In fact, Katie Leclerc, who plays Daphne on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, would be perfect for the role of Piper Vaughn!
4. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. A coming-of-age story about an all-female trio inspired by riot grrrl pioneers Sleater-Kinney who embark on one final tour before setting off to college. Yes, this is yet another YA book set in the Pacific Northwest! The area was the birthplace of grunge as well as the rise of the riot grrrl punk rock scene. The Disenchantments sparked my obsession for riot grrrl punk – 20 years too late! If you’re a fan, you’ll note that the title of the first book on this list is taken from the title of a Sleater-Kinney song. I love Sleater-Kinney, but I’m a bigger fan of Bikini Kill and that band’s feminist pioneer Kathleen Hanna. Watch Sini Anderson’s 2013 documentary The Punk Singer to learn more about that amazing woman.
5. Amplified by Tara Kelly. Privileged teen Jasmine Kiss is forced to follow her dream of becoming a guitarist when her father kicks her out of his house. She joins a band called C-Side who are inspired by Canada’s synth/goth/industrial rockers The Birthday Massacre. I love this book mostly because The Birthday Massacre is one of my favorite Canadian bands but also because C-Side’s sexy free-spirited lesbian singer Veta Ramirez is awesome!!