After the unexpected death of his parents, 17-year-old Alex is living with his aunt and uncle. Changing schools and repeating the same grade have left him feeling more alone than ever. Painting has always been Alex’s escape. When friends turn him on to the rock band Death Rose, Alex develops a crush, a slight obsession, with Danny Death, the band’s guitarist.
After a concert, Alex finds Danny to give him an original painting. Alex cannot believe he gets to meet Danny, talk to him, breathe the same air, and share the same space. Alex wants to see Danny again and plans his next gift. The two develop an unlikely friendship and Alex really cannot believe he may just get to date the man whose image has been plastered to his wall.
The 1980s long-haired rock bands. They are the opposite of insecure Alex, whose favorite music has always been classical. Trying to find his way after the death of his parents, Alex becomes slightly obsessed with the band Death Rose and specifically with Danny. He buys all of their music, magazines, and posters, follows their interviews, and seeks them out backstage.
Told from Alex’s perspective, the author does a really great job of getting into Alex’s head at not only his first concert, but his first Death Rose concert, and his first time seeing Danny in person. It truly reads from the POV of a true 80s star struck rock fan. Alex has lived a fairly sheltered life and everything is a new experience for him and he is beyond excited and nervous. Danny is not your typical rocker. He doesn’t drink, has his own insecurities, and would really like a relationship but travels just too much. The rock and roll lifestyle is not really for him, he just loves to play the guitar.
The story is a slow build and we spend a lot of time with Alex as he reinvents himself. He never asks to talk to anyone about how he feels and when he does reach out to his aunt, she plays her exasperating part well, as we are all exasperated with her comments. We get a real sense of how alone Alex feels all of the time. The story pulled back (at just the right time) from the obsessive rock fan to a friendship and the start of a relationship between Alex and Danny. They really connect and find something they need in each other and Alex is able to take the lead when it’s what Danny needs and wants. There are some hot, first time, intimate moments touched with real emotions. There are fairly quick declarations of love, although not by the guy you might first expect. The lack of POV from Danny does make it a bit harder to see all the ins and outs of his full interest in Alex. Danny’s band mates round out the cast to include a larger view of backstage happenings, including an entertaining scene of an argument over stage clothing.
Phoenix is a well written coming of age and first love story with unique circumstances of falling for a rock star. And, while flicking a lighter in an arena is no longer legal, we can hold out for the encore of a second book that will continue the story of Alex and Danny.