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I'm Glad I Did

Review

I'm Glad I Did

It’s the summer of 1963 and teenager JJ Greene dreams of writing songs that will speak to her generation. Against the wishes of her stuffed-shirt parents, JJ applies for and lands an apprenticeship with a music publisher in her native Manhattan. The setup for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil’s debut novel is pitch perfect. Who better to take readers on a tour of the legendary Brill Building, where songwriters churned out hit after hit, than an insider such as Weil?

JJ soon realizes that songwriting isn’t the romantic escape she’s fantasized about for so long. It’s a cutthroat business and some of the key players, including her estranged uncle Bernie, use shady means to take control of profits. As an intern, JJ spends her days copying and filing sheet music, and her nights in the office cubicles composing on the piano. She hopes that if she can write one great song this summer, her family will finally support her. When JJ meets a talented young lyricist and a former blues singer also working in the building, her goals suddenly seem within reach. But just as she cuts her first demo, the teen finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery.

Readers will root for the determined and self-sufficient JJ as she navigates the complex rules and relationships at play within the Brill Building.

Weil excels at conjuring the historical New York City setting, made all the richer by her industry insight. She has an ear for dialogue --- not surprising given Weil's background as a lyricist. Readers will root for the determined and self-sufficient JJ as she navigates the complex rules and relationships at play within the Brill Building. I’M GLAD I DID also provides a valuable look at the racial tension and discrimination of the time, including the mistreatment of African Americans by their peers within the music world.

An otherwise engaging read, the novel is bogged down by a few too many coincidences and forced connections. Weil stated in an interview that she had initially submitted a manuscript for a different book to her editor, not knowing that he exclusively publishes YA mysteries. There is a sense that Weil, however gifted a writer, isn’t entirely comfortable in the genre. Plotting issues aside, anyone who craves a bit of entertainment and a behind-the-scenes look at the music biz should tune in.

Reviewed by Emma Kantor on January 28, 2015

I'm Glad I Did
by Cynthia Weil

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2015
  • Genres: Young Adult 13+
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Teen
  • ISBN-10: 1616955740
  • ISBN-13: 9781616955748