Teddy Wayne won attention and acclaim (including the 2011 Whiting Writers' Award) for his first novel, Kapitoil, the story of a Muslim immigrant's integration into the corporate world—and America's capitalist society.
In his second novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, coming in February, Wayne turns his satirical eye on the fame machine with the story of Jonny, an 11-year-old pop phenom who has everything—except a normal life. After all, most preteens don't have bodyguards to taste meals for poison, or a mother who is also their manager. When Jonny stumbles across a note in an online forum that might be from his estranged father, he sets off on a quest that could change the course of his life.
It's impossible to read this book without thinking of Justin Bieber, the Canadian pop star who makes preteen girls everywhere swoon. But Jonny's voice is disarming and real, and manages to be credible both as that of a preteen and that of a knowledgeable musician: He throws around terms like "brand perception" and "flat upper register" but is also obsessed with videogames and the Internet. Wayne is unsparing in his critique of the way the modern media builds up and breaks down its stars—and the way that such stars try to play that system. Jonny is both a symptom of this culture and a contributor to it, albeit an at times reluctant one.
So far, writing fiction that centers on fame seems to have been left to the stars themselves (think Britney Spears' A Mother's Gift, or the "novels" of Lauren Conrad). Which is surprising, since it's such a rich topic for an observant writer and such a dominant part of today's culture. Wayne makes the most of his material to come up with a book that is both entertaining and insightful. Look for it in February.