Recap: JJ Green comes from a family of lawyers, and she’s expected to become one as well. But as a 16-year-old growing up in New York City in the 1960s, she doesn’t want to be a lawyer; she wants to be a songwriter. She lucks out when she nails an interview and lands herself an internship at one of the biggest music publishing offices in the city. That’s when she makes a deal with her parents: if she writes and sells a song to be published by the end of her summer internship, her parents will have to let her continue on the songwriting path.
As her internship begins, JJ is quickly thrown into the real world and adult life — meeting Luke, a cute, older boy on the elevator and running into her estranged Uncle Bernie, who’s said to be involved in some illegal side activities. But things get real, real fast when she learns that one of her friends has died, and it just happens to be the same woman who recorded an amazing demo for JJ’s new song. The police rule it a suicide, but she knows there’s more to the story. Suddenly her songwriting summer is swirling with love and the mystery of murder. She wants to help solve it, but she also has to sell her song — big goals for one young girl in one short, crazy summer.
Analysis: “I’m Glad I Did” isn’t only the title of the book. It’s also the title of JJ’s original song. It’s also how I felt after having read the book. Yes, I am aware that those three sentences were a little hokey. To be fair, the book is a little hokey as well. But as a YA novel, it should be exactly that, and a lot of fun. The book had some dark undertones, dealing with interracial relationship in the 1960s, gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction, and death. But ultimately it was fun. This girl is living the dream — writing songs with a dreamy boy in New York City and solving a murder mystery. Is it a little far-fetched? Yes. But I put myself into the mind of a 14-year-old girl reading this book, and I couldn’t help but think JJ was awesome and living a pretty fabulous life.
What’s impressive about I’m Glad I Did is that it was written by Cynthia Weil, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter. She helped write classics such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “On Broadway.” Knowing that, I trusted her take on what happens behind the scenes of the songwriting business in the 1960s. I had to imagine that at least some of the story came from real-life experience, and that only made the story more intriguing and exciting.
MVP: JJ. She’s a teenage badass. She stands up to her parents and works toward the career she wants. She stands up to police, insisting they continue to investigate the murder. For a girl who considers herself to be unconfident, she sure is ballsy. And it’s fun and empowering to see her succeed time and time again.