I'm Glad I Did

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
I'm Glad I Did Book Poster Image
Upbeat tale of teen songwriter has vivid '60s backdrop.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Historical context of and early key events in the civil rights movement; early women songwriters and influential singers; lots of pop music history from the late '50s through the early '60s, including minor characters who were real studio musicians and a prominent audio engineer in the early '60s; nuclear test ban treaty among U.S., England, and USSR explained; a few Spanish words and phrases, some translated; New York City's Brill Building as songwriting mecca of the day.

Positive Messages

You can keep loving, and even forgive, someone who has disappointed you, has broken your heart, doesn't understand you, or does things you don't agree with. Don't try to be something you're not, especially for someone else's sake, and don't put yourself down for not being what others might wish you were. Just be your best self. It's OK to break the rules if the reason for breaking them is right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

JJ, who's 16, models determination in pursuing her dreams and is honesty and trustworthy. She doggedly pursues the truth and demands it of others. She has an opportunity to steal someone else's lyrics but handles it correctly and is richly rewarded for it. Her family is slightly dysfunctional in normal ways but overall loving and supportive of one another. Positive gender and racial role models include her mother, who's a criminal attorney, and a minor African-American character who's a prominent professor at NYU. Love-interest Luke is determined to make up as best he can for his father's past swindles.

Violence

Blood pooled under a victim's head is mentioned but not described in detail. Past instance of a guardian hitting a child "upside the head." A short tussle described with foot-stomping and biting.

Sex

A few kisses mentioned but not described. Mentions of having a period and needing tampons. Talk of past teen pregnancies and the possibility of abortion. 

Language

"Ass," "hell," "holy crap" once each.

Consumerism

Coke, Dr. Brown's Cream Soda, Kleenex, Sony, and Marlboro. Bösendorfer pianos' sonic qualities extolled. Cashbox and Billboard magazines and charts mentioned many times. Characters wear dresses designed by Anne Fogarty, Anne Klein, Jonathan Logan, and Oleg Cassini.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Parents have brandy and cigarettes nightly after dinner. Uncle frequently drinks multiple cocktails at lunch and drinks heavily to cope with emotions in multiple situations. Major character had drug-abuse problem but overcame it and is sober now; negative consequences involving loved ones and career shown. Minor character currently in 12-step program to quit drug use. First-person narration of snorting cocaine to feel good makes it clear it's not an effective solution to emotional problems. Many minor characters smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I'm Glad I Did by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter Cynthia Weil ("On Broadway," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") is the story of JJ, a 16-year-old aspiring songwriter in early 1960s New York City. It will mostly resonate with older teens, as the protagonist tries to forge her own path in life. A major character's past drug addiction is important, and a memoir within the novel directly but briefly narrates her first time snorting cocaine. Negative consequences involving herself, her family, and her career are clearly demonstrated. Lots of adult characters drink alcohol, including one who drinks heavily when his emotions run high. Minor characters smoke frequently. JJ is a strong role model for honesty and integrity, and kids will learn about important historical events of the early '60s.

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What's the story?

JJ Green comes from a family of lawyers, and it's a given that she, too, will be a lawyer when she grows up. But her heart's always belonged to music, songwriting in particular. The summer after she graduates from high school, she gets her dream job in the fabled Brill Building, the mecca of pop-music songwriting in 1960s New York. While working as an unpaid intern there, she meets Dulcie Brown, a once-great singer who lost it all to drug addiction and now works as a custodian. Meanwhile, JJ also meets and writes a song with Luke, the handsome young man who works a few floors down. JJ cuts a demo of the song, with Dulcie singing, and it could be the start of a comeback for Dulcie. But fate has other plans, and unless JJ can uncover the truth about Dulcie's past and present, their song may never see the light of day.

Is it any good?

In her debut novel, I'M GLAD I DID, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter Cynthia Weil vividly brings to life a world she knows well: the music business in early '60s New York City. This fascinating look back at a unique time and place serves as the backdrop to a coming-of-age story that will appeal to older teens. Heroine JJ Green is believable and teens will easily relate to her struggles against parental expectations as she forges her own path through life.

Colorful characters enliven JJ's world, and an intriguing mystery surrounding a fallen singing star holds the reader's interest right through to the end. The writing's not quite as finely crafted as one of her many pop masterpieces and weakens considerably in the sections of Dulcie's memoir, which don't find an authentic voice and read like a high-school essay. But Weil effectively conveys the feeling of an era when America was on the cusp of tremendous social change. Teens ready to make their own futures happen, and fans of mid-century American history, will enjoy connecting to that time when anything was possible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why and how people succumb to drug or alcohol addiction. How does Dulcie become addicted to drugs? What do you think her life and career would have been like if she hadn't become addicted?

  • Lots of our pop culture, including TV (Mad Men) and music videos ("All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor), is fascinated with '60s music and style. What's so special about that era? Why are we so fascinated with it?

  • Did you notice that the author, Cynthia Weil, is a songwriter in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Have you heard any songs she's written? Why do you think she wrote this novel?

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