Monday, July 20, 2009

Cyber Launch Party Day 6: The Ballad of Alexa Young

Welcome to Day 6 of the Ballads of Suburbia Cyber Launch Party! For all of the details on the party including guests, the daily contests and the grand prize drawing be sure to read the information at the beginning of Day 1's blog.

Wow, I can't believe that tomorrow is the official release day for Ballads of Suburbia! I'm starting to feel really overwhelmed, but I also can't wait to see my book out in the world. I'm proud to see that it has already having an impact on people.

The Chicago Sun-Times gave it a great review on Sunday.

I am also glad to see how much it is resonating with the bloggers. Reading Is Bliss also gave it a wonderful review.

Today's Winner:
This week I get to start announcing winners from the Cyber Launch contests! Yay! Each day I will announce the winner of the contest that was posted one week earlier. That means today's winner gets a signed copy of Ballads of Suburbia and the Ballads soundtrack CD from me! And that winner is... Share You Sweet Tread from Blogger! I will email you for your address shortly! Remember to enter last week's contests! Each contests lasts one week!

Now, today's guest blogger is author Alexa Young!

Alexa Young is the author of the Frenemies series, which includes the books Frenemies and Faketastic. She's also a freelance journalist and has written for publications such as HITS, JUMP, Shape, O: The Oprah Magazine, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and many more. You can find her at,, Alexicon, and The Worst Review Ever blog.

Alexa was also my partner in crime for Rock 'n' Read, which we hosted a year ago in LA and hope to bring to Chicago this fall.

I love her dearly and her ballad shared a whole new side of her. Get out the tissues. This one made me sob.

Here's Alexa's ballad:

“You Are the Everything”

It all started when April and I decided to be college roommates. We hadn’t been close friends, but we knew each other and occasionally hung in the same crowds throughout middle and high school. So as graduation drew near and we discovered we’d both be going to U.C. San Diego, I approached her (or maybe she approached me?)…and the deal was done.

“This will be so fun!” April smiled. She had the kind of smile that could melt away any kind of stress—even the stress of leaving our families and heading off to college a full NINETY. MILES. FROM. HOME! (Hey, we were kids.)

Things went smoothly for the most part. Sure, April and I had our differences. I mean, she was incredibly mellow and cool while I was high-strung and neurotic; April made friends easily while I alienated…a lot of people; she had an infectious laugh and a dorky sense of humor while I was all about the scathing wit and sarcasm. But our differences made us stronger. We complemented each other. We ruled! I especially loved that we could stay up late at night, cramming for exams, talking about (okay, worrying about) our futures, and—best of all—bonding over our favorite music. I was so impressed that April played guitar and that she worked at the campus radio station (KSDT) and the record store (Assorted Vinyl). She turned me on to all kinds of bands. I can still see the albums piled against our dorm room walls: The Primitives’ Lovely; Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Freaky Styley; The Violent Femmes self-titled debut; an advance copy of Peter Murphy’s Deep (scored from KSDT); and R.E.M.’s entire catalog-to-date. We loved—and I mean loved—everything R.E.M.

So when spring break rolled around, it was a given we’d go to see Michael Stipe et al in concert. We weren’t exactly sure how we’d get decent tickets but, eventually, our plan was to buy them from a scalper. It seemed like a good idea at the time…and, as it turned out, it was: We scored 10th-row seats for a mere 30 dollars! We had the time of our lives. It was a concert to beat all concerts. When I dropped April off at her parents’ house the next night, she promised she’d call me over the weekend. She was going to give me the details on a road-trip to Arizona that some friends of ours were taking. We'd decided after the R.E.M. show that we'd both join them. Spring break in Arizona with April? I couldn’t wait!

But I never heard from April the next day. Or the day after that. By the end of the week, and after leaving a few messages for her, I was pissed. She hadn’t called me. She—and the rest of our supposed friends—had bailed on me. They’d gone on a spring break road-trip without me. When I got a call from one of our mutual friends more than a week later, I couldn’t believe the gall of her.

“Alexa,” our friend said. “There was an accident.”

“What?” I asked.

“There was an accident. In Arizona. And April didn’t make it.”

"What do you mean she didn't make it?" I demanded. "You mean she didn’t go?"

"No," our friend said between sobs. "April's dead."

Everything stopped for a moment. This had to be a joke…right? April just felt bad about forgetting to include me in the road-trip…right? She was on the other line…RIGHT? This was a three-way-line prank, RIGHT???

“April?” I asked. “April!” I screamed. “This isn’t funny, you guys! APRIL…???” Then I started to cry. “Ohmygod.”

I told our friend I’d call her back and rushed to my parents to tell them about the call I’d just gotten. My mom dialed April’s parents and quickly discovered it was no prank. It was true. April was gone. I’d be returning to my second quarter of college without a roommate…without a friend…and with a serious hole in my heart and in my life. That’s when R.E.M.’s “You Are the Everything” really hit home:

Sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing.
I’m very scared for this world.
I’m very scared for me.
Eviscerate your memory…

It was creepy—but also kind of comforting—how the lyrics to the song captured images of what April’s world might have been like when the end came. I’d heard she’d been sleeping in the backseat of our friend’s minivan, without a seatbelt. It was pouring rain when the car hydroplaned and rolled, ejecting her from the vehicle:

Here’s a scene,
You’re in the back seat laying down,
The windows wrap around
To sound of the travel and the engine.
All you hear is time stand still in travel
And feel such peace and absolute.
The stillness still that doesn’t end,
But slowly drifts into sleep.
The stars are the greatest thing you’ve ever seen
And they’re there for you,
For you alone you are the everything…

I can’t even count how many times I listened to that song after April died. I still think about her every time I hear it…and most other R.E.M. songs for that matter—especially those last lyrics:

I think about this world a lot and I cry…

Everything is beautiful,
And she is so beautiful.
She is so young and old.
I look at her and I see the beauty
Of the light of music.
The voices talking somewhere in the house.
Late spring and you’re drifting off to sleep
With your teeth in your mouth.
You are here with me,
You are here with me,
You have been here and you are everything.

Bottom line: April is still here with me. And she was everything—a true reflection of what people are and what they should strive to be, if that makes any sense. I miss you, April. Twenty years later. You will always be the beauty…of the light of music…and so much more.

Today's Contest:
Alexa was not only brave and strong enough to share that ballad. She is kind enough to donate copies of both Frenemies and Faketastic to one lucky winner. To enter just leave a comment about Alexa's ballad. This might be hard, it might have left you speechless. It hit me extra hard because I also lost a friend in an accident just over a year ago and eerily enough REM was the music I listened to most when coping with that loss. For me it was the entire Automatic for the People album, which he and I had discussed at length when we first became friends back during sophomore year of high school. Perhaps (hopefully!), you haven't lost someone you loved, but you can still comment about a song or band or album that reminds of one of the most meaningful people in your life.

And you'll earn additional entries by blogging/tweeting/etc about this blog or the cyber launch party. Just note your additional entries in your comment. Winner will be chosen at random on Monday, July 27.

Tomorrow's Guest:

Well, since tomorrow is official Ballads of Suburbia release day, I guess I better guest blog and tell you all about how and why I wrote the book. Complete with prizes of course. So I hope you'll come back tomorrow to celebrate release day with me!


Kristen said...

I tweeted this!

Her Ballad made me cry.. how heart stopping to find out a close friend died.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. Talk about giving me MAJOR chills. Yowie.

I've got this posted at Win a Book for you. Thanks for the e-mail, Stephanie!

TiffMcDoodle said...

That is heart breaking.
When my brother told me that our dad died while I was sleeping, I didn't want to believe it. I was 14 and wasn't sure what to do...I remember hearing my brother pacing outside my door for a few hours, but didn't think anything of it until he walked in and was pale. I do not think I have been so emotionally numb. ever.

I cannot wait to read this book.
I just recently moved to Minneapolis and am stressed, so I am hoping this book will make me feel better :)

Pam said...

That's heartbreaking. For the tough times in my life, Green Day always seems to have the perfect song. For example, a friend and I went on a road trip to visit another friend. She made us a cd for our journey and the first song was "Good Riddance". Just last year, that friend took her own life and that was one of the first songs I heard after. Somehow it seemed appropriate,

melacan at hotmail dot com

marina said...

i don't even know what to say.
that ballad was just so.. unreal. i would've thought it was a prank. i wouldn't want to believe it. it'd just be too hard. you're really strong for making it through that though.
and, i'm so excited the book comes out tomorrow!!


Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

I'm pretty teary eyed right now and have no clue how to comment. I think I'll steal yours and say: speechless.

One song that is always close to me is "I Will Take You Home" by The Grateful Dead. When I was little I had a heart problem and was in and out of the hospital for a long time. My dad use to sing me the song a lot and renamed it "My Amber Song".

Llehn said...

Oh my gosh. I found myself crying as I read the post. Hugs.

runningforfiction said...

i'm sitting here and i feel like i'm going to cry. that just gave me goosebumps.
i want to read her books so badly now.

i've been in so many accidents in my life.
people i know have been in so many accidents.
i remember the fourth of july this year, i came home from my friends house after the fireworks and my mom told me my sister had just gone to the ER and she was waiting for me so we could go.
and i put on this song 'Blue' by Julie Doiron and it just helped me. the lyrics. her voice. everything.


Diana Dang said...

That is such a tragedy. She was beautiful and she had a whole life ahead of her.

I haven't lost a love one yet and when I think about it, I'm taking that for granted. You don't know what you truly have til you lose it.

R.I.P. April

Mark Rabenstein said...

April is an amazing person, and she's still with me. When she was alive, she was so full of life, energy, optimism, and vitality. That will live forever. I will never forget her.

As for music, "I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi is what I listened to then. I know, artistically it doesn't compare to REM. But the message / lyrics are what got me.

I miss you April.

MoziEsmé said...

Tragically sweet. A friend of mine drowned while we were in college - this brings back memories

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Wow. That very nearly made me cry. She's extremely brave for sharing that story.

Catherine said...

Incredibly sad story. I hope I never have to lose a friend that way.

BrittLit said...


I posted this on my sidebar


Anonymous said...

You've summed up exactly how I feel: speechless. I really can't imagine losing a friend at that age.

Lori T said...

Alexa~ Your ballad was so touching and it made me cry. I cannot imagine how you must have felt receiving that call. I am very sorry for your loss.

I really cannot think of a song right now.

Alexa thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Bianca said...

Oh man. That was sad. I haven't actually had anything like that happen to me, but I would be devastated if someone close to me died.