Next Big Thing
Next Big Thing is not just a story about wannabe rock stars. It’s also the story of the toll of the creative ego on friendships and relationships. Will and Mark have been friends since middle school and band mates for just as long. After college, Mark convinces Will and the rest of the band to trade in their hometown of Harding, Ohio, for Boston and a chance at stardom. After four years of toil, their band, Shadowland, finally puts out an album. But just as they are on the brink of success, egos start to threaten the stability of the group. Balancing friendship with differing creative visions is a challenge, one that could cost Shadowland everything they’ve worked for before they even achieve it.
There are two elements of this novel that could have presented major challenges for a first-time novelist like Kitchen. The first is the use of close first person point of view, which limits the reader’s knowledge of the other characters to the biased accounts of the protagonist. Kitchen sidesteps this problem like a pro, providing insights into Will through Mark’s anecdotes and memories and allowing the reader to form their own opinion based on the evidence. This sets up the tension between the two characters, the main tension of the novel, in a realistic fashion. The second potential hazard was the alternating timeline. By flashing backward and forward throughout the novel, the readers get to see both how Shadowland got started and the events surrounding their imminent rise. This could have easily lent confusion to the plot, but Kitchen juggles these timelines effortlessly.
It is very clear that Kitchen lived this story or a similar version of it. His intimate knowledge of being the front man of a struggling rock group in 1980s Boston shines through in our narrator Mark. As a character, Mark is fully developed and alive to the reader from the very beginning. The true achievement on Kitchen’s part is having a whole cast of fairly well rounded characters to fill in Mark’s world.
With well-developed plot and characters, Next Big Thing is a great debut novel. Kitchen has infused his story with all the perfect details to make this tale of aspiring rock stars a vivid and compelling read.
|Urban Campfire Press
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