Shiny happy people
August 13, 2018 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me remember the title of a YA novel that has a character in it who may or may not be imaginary who only speaks in song quotes? He quotes CSNY's line "we are stardust / we are golden / we are billion year old carbon" and I think something from REM's Shiny Happy People.

I read this book in about 1995-1997. It was contemporary at the time. My copy was a purple hardback.

Other things I remember: the characters are in high school. The main characters are two twins, a boy and a girl; the narrator; and the narrator's imaginary friend.

Other things I think I might remember: the imaginary character's name begins with an R. The story might be the narrator's coming out story. I think when the narrator figures out their sexuality that their imaginary friend disappears.
posted by sockermom to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It really sounds like Madeline L’Engle’s wrinkle in time...
posted by slateyness at 7:36 PM on August 13, 2018

"A Wrinkle in Time" has a character (Mrs. Who) who speaks (almost?) exclusively in quotes, but the other info in the description clearly does not match "A Wrinkle in Time" -- the character's gender is wrong and the song "Woodstock" was not even written when "A Wrinkle in Time" was published in 1962. So.. not that.

"Shiny Happy People" was originally on R.E.M.'s "Out of Time" album, released in 1991, so if the book does quote that song there is at least a starting bound on when it could have been written and that starting bound agrees with the OP's sense of when they first encountered the book and how old it was at the time.
posted by Nerd of the North at 8:37 PM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

If it helps your search, "Woodstock" was actually written by Joni Mitchell.
posted by Rumple at 9:48 PM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Sounds like it could be a Francesca Lia Block book, though I can’t say which particular one. My copy of Weetzie Bat definitely had a purple cover though.
posted by itsamermaid at 5:12 AM on August 14, 2018

The quoting character doesn't speak much, and he only says song lyrics. He doesn't say who sang the songs or anything. His dialogue was all italicised. At the beginning he seems like a new kid at school.

I think one of the characters, maybe the girl twin, had a Mohawk?

I have a feeling the author was a woman. I know that she wrote at least one other book because I read it too and didn't like it as much.

It's definitely not A Wrinkle in Time.
posted by sockermom at 6:08 AM on August 14, 2018

It also isn't anything by Francesca Lia Block.
posted by sockermom at 6:13 AM on August 14, 2018

Mrs. Who speaking exclusively in quotes in WRINKLE IN TIME was an invention of the film, I belive; I don't think the book had that detail.

A friend of mine is a teen librarian, who's home with a cold; I'll send her this link and see if this triggers her knowledge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on August 14, 2018

Mrs Who does speak in quotes in the book too.

Is it Tomorrow Wendy? Here is the PW review:

Hiding behind enormous hats and eccentric, Audrey Hepburn-style clothes ("It gets me noticed, but it also keeps people from looking too closely") is a terrified high-school senior named Cary. As her obsession with "dangerous and aloof" Wendy reels out of control, Cary uses drugs and sex (with Wendy's drug-dealer twin brother) to numb her feelings. She invents (or hallucinates) a guitar-plucking mentor who offers snippets of pop lyrics by way of advice ("Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose"). Distancing herself from her family, her best friend Jen and the cliquish members of the "Lesbian Collective" at school, Cary sinks into depression. Then Raven, a new girl and self-proclaimed lesbian, encourages Cary to confront her fears and her desires. Stoehr's (Weird on the Outside) depiction of privileged, nihilistic teens living life in the fast lane (and doing a little surfing on the side) appears more L.A.-ish than its Long Island setting might allow, and, as in her previous books, her narrator's rough language and hard-edged attitude toward sex can seem calculated ("One of the things that I liked best about Danny in bed was that he always wore a condom....With a lubricated condom he couldn't tell if I liked it or not, and that was a relief"). This time, however, the grittier elements of the story are in clearer service of a theme and message, and when the strands of the plot come together, the impact has force and vigor. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)
posted by leesh at 6:40 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

It is SO Tomorrow Wendy. Thank you, leesh!!!
posted by sockermom at 6:43 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Aforementioned Teen Librarian (hiya, EmpressC!) reporting in, stumped by this book.
It sounds vaguely familiar, but I've got nothin.

I'll be curious what the answer is.
posted by SaharaRose at 6:45 AM on August 14, 2018

Since the question has been answered already, I'll briefly revisit:
Mrs. Who speaking exclusively in quotes in WRINKLE IN TIME was an invention of the film, I believe; I don't think the book had that detail.
Nah, it's even lampshaded in the book..
"Mrs. Who, I wish you'd stop quoting!" Charles Wallace sounded very annoyed.

Mrs. Whatsit adjusted her stole. "But she finds it so difficult to verbalize, Charles dear. It helps her if she can quote instead of working out words of her own."
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as long as I'm spouting random facts..

Presumably the book title is borrowed from the 1990 song of the same name, written by Andy Prieboy and famously covered (before Prieboy's version was released) by Concrete Blonde. The subject of the song is a young woman dying of AIDS.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Some of Mrs. Who's quotes were updated for the movie, which may have caused the confusion.
posted by praemunire at 2:40 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jane Linkskold's Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls has a similar literary gimmick. The narrator character can only speak (to humans) in quotes, which makes it very hard (pretty much impossible) to relay that inanimate objects talk to her.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:11 PM on August 14, 2018

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