Book Review: Cherry Bomb

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Author: Jenny Valentish
ISBN: 978-1-76011-081-9
RRP: $29.99

Cherry Bomb is the debut novel of rock journalist Jenny Valentish, told about Sydney pop-punk band The Dolls. I love music, I love all the musicians I have met and I am certain that Valentish has seen and heard a lot in her time in the industry so would have a wealth of stories to draw inspiration from. Having said that, this is a purely fictitious work and the characters are her own – with one exception.

Nina Dall is one half of The Dolls, teenage cousins from Sydney descended from 80’s pop icon Alannah Dall. They grew up idolising Aunt Alannah and have memorised all of her videos, albums, and interviews; to an extent modelling themselves in her image. It is Nina who tells us the story of The Dolls, complete with quotes from Alannah’s tell all autobiography, music reviews, lists and interview excerpts.

The Dolls start making a name for themselves with the help of Alannah’s contacts at a very young age. I want to say they were  at an age that they were not yet equipped to deal with all the temptations that the industry allowed them access to but most of them were not new experiences.

For as long as they can remember Nina and Rose have been talking about getting out of their childhood neighbourhood and making a name for themselves int he industry. They have studied the great Alannah Dall and many of the other iconic female artists of recent times. They are versed in the art of manipulation, Nina not afraid to use sex, or the hint of it at least.

The teens live the party lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll all the way to the top, winning ARIA awards and getting signed in America – where the industry is very different to that in Australia. Their star burns bright but often the brighter the burn the bigger the burnout.

Nina and Rose grew up in Parramatta, as close as cousins could be. They spent much of their time together and Nina secretly coveted Rose’s life, the happy and well adjusted family unit that she sees from the outside. But as in any situation the grass is often greener and who knows what Rose’s life is actually like behind closed doors and being cousins Nina was able to get the family feel at Rose’s that she missed out on at home. The resentment Nina held for Rose was strong, unshakeable and largely unexplained until a reveal much further into the book.

cherry bomb

The two are chalk and cheese in a lot of ways and when their career path depends on them working together things can get a little hairy. At sixteen they start working with a producer contacted by their aunt, throughout the story many of their industry contacts had previously worked with Alannah so their was a great deal of history that the girls had never known, and some they wish they never learned.

Narrated by Nina we only see Rose through her eyes, which isn’t a complete picture. Nina on the other hand we learn all about, we discover her past and it puts a lot of her behaviour into perspective and allows us to really know her.

Nina Dall is craving escape from her life but the further she travels the stronger her self-sabotaging tendencies grow, risking it all. She is a much more complex character than she appears as we discover the more we get to know her, and she gets to know herself. I found myself very empathetic to her pain and hoping she beat her demons.

Cherry Bomb offers a no-filter behind the scenes look at the lives of teen pop-punk rockers The Dolls and all of the over-indulgence that entails, it also offers answers to long held questions about Alannah Dall and what happened to take her from the limelight to a reclusive life on the Gold Coast.

Combining elements of family, friendship, relationships, love, betrayal and manipulation Cherry Bomb grabs your attention and takes you on a star studded ride through the meteoric rise of The Dolls.

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