Retta Lee Jones is an aspiring country singer from Starling, a small Tennessee town. Everyone in Starling knows Retta is talented, but a beautiful voice cannot fix her parents’ marriage or pay the bills. All she clings to is a dream to make it in Nashville.
Following her high school graduation, and despite her mother’s objections, Retta scrapes together her limited savings to spend the summer working in Music City. Some unfortunate circumstances (a parking ticket, a fender-bender, a mugging) force her to sleep in her car, but they also put her in the path of kind-hearted people. She meets a mechanic who offers her a job answering phones in his auto shop to pay for the repairs, and a bookstore clerk befriends her and lends her books about the country music business. When Retta gets a poor-paying job singing at a shabby hotel, the hotel manager’s young son lets her sleep in a vacant room for free. The hotel bartender, a fellow musician, offers her valuable advice: Quit imitating country legends and sing your own music. Before long, her luck changes when she catches the attention of a well-known local columnist. But the path to fame is often paved with potholes, and Retta must decide if becoming a Nashville star is even possible.
As in her previous book, Artichoke’s Heart, Suzanne Supplee peppers Somebody Everybody Listens To with a lush Southern setting, endearing characters and honest first-person narration. Retta is a hard-working soul who just needs a lucky break, and readers will root for her to rise above her humble circumstances. In addition, Supplee precedes each chapter with a brief biography of a country legend, such as Patsy Cline, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton. These entries highlight the difficult road to stardom and complement Retta’s own struggles and successes. After reading that Dolly Parton was one of 12 children or that Shania’s real name is Eileen Edwards, teen readers might be motivated to do their own research and learn more. And although the country bios add a fun touch to the novel, teens do not need to be fans of country music to be fans of Suzanne Supplee.