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Book Review | Vagablonde by Anna Dorn

From the Publisher: Vagablonde is a darkly humorous, rollercoaster ride through the Los Angeles music scene about a woman who wants two things: the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as an artist. A cautionary tale about viral fame, Vagablonde speaks directly to our time in biting detail.

Anna Dorn is a writer from Los Angeles. She is a former criminal defense attorney with a JD from UC Berkeley Law and has written for various legal and pop culture outlets. It’s not too far off then to think that her book about Prue Van Teesen, a lawyer-turned-rapper battling anxiety and depression, is probably a bit autobiographical. Prue has never felt totally happy with being a lawyer, but it keeps her parents content, pays the bills, and allows her the free time to create and hang out with her girlfriend. When she meets Jax at a concert, he invites her into his “Kingdom” (a group of musicians and some other questionable characters) and she decides to take her art more seriously. To do this, Prue believes she needs to stop taking Celexa, an antidepressant she’s been on for the last 10 years. The Kingdom becomes Shiny AF, the newest viral sensation with their single “Dearly Queerly.” Prue begins spending less time on her law career and more time on her music career, and all the shenanigans that come with it. She drinks more, takes a lot of drugs, and even ends up befriending one of her clients, creating an ethical dilemma for her and her employer.

Vagablonde excels in transporting readers to a scene most probably aren’t familiar with — at least I assume the lawyer/rapper pool of humans is a small one. Some have criticized the book because Prue is “unlikeable.” This is true, Prue is not a great person (the way she cares for her two cats, Missy and Ennui, is more than a little concerning), but an unlikeable character doesn’t equal a bad book. Vagablonde is fun, it’s silly, and it takes on a big subject without getting too bogged down in the details of mental health struggles. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’s good if you’re looking for something a little weird, a little fun, and a little not-too-deep.

Vagablonde is available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.

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