I recommend having an night or an afternoon that can be dedicated to this book because the story is so full and enrapturing that one won’t want to put it down and for the fullest effect of the story, one shouldn’t. This is a book that left me speechless. I had tears in my eyes and some points and was devastated at others. My heart ached for the main character Harper as her journey is the one mostly narrated.
This novel goes through the life long friendship and love of these two women starting off very young all the way to college. It speaks of brief moments in time and slows time down for more detail of singular moments in life that profoundly change a person. I loved how the characters were real to the reader and the story of love, lust, and secrets kept was beyond believable.
This story isn’t for the faint of heart since these two women’s life together unfolds before the readers eyes, it a captivating, spiritual experience that’ll I’ll carry with me.
Some love affairs start early. So it was with Grace Dunlop and Harper Alessi, who met as pre-teens. Although the two girls came from wealthy families, the similarities in their lifestyles only touched every now and then. Harper was the daughter of artists with a Bohemian lifestyle. Grace’s family was very traditional. Yet the two young women gave one another the gift of limitless freedom and boundless love as they grew to adulthood.
The problem is, all that freedom and innocent love eventually evolved into passionate feelings that neither could name and both refused to acknowledge. “Just special friends, that’s all.” That’s what they knew they were. As they mature, a local hangout with a jukebox and its expressive music, becomes the pivot point in the manifestation of their lives together.
By high school and college, Grace and Harper are wrestling with feelings for one another, feelings of jealousy for the boyfriends in each other’s lives, and a longing that neither can express for fear of breaking the spell that holds them together. A trip to Europe solidifies their feelings, but when they return home, it all starts to fall apart. And that’s only the beginning of the story.
Daggett gives us a poignant tale. As it unfolds we wonder if these two young women will ever be able to be who they are to one another and to the world. It’s a gripping tale, filled with alluring sadness, and the musical background emphasizes the crescendo of the characters’ emotions. Jukebox is a bitter-sweet tale that will engage the reader throughout, and offers up some surprises at the end. Every Harper is meant for a Grace—and the reader may find herself and her own longings reflected in this story.
Just about Write Review
I got a book called Jukebox for Christmas and finally started it last night – I cannot put it down!!! What an incredible debut novel by Gina Daggett. I’m almost half way in and seriously wish I had a babysitter coming just so I could go somewhere and keep reading! A riveting love story.
Tracey Ireland Barker
If your love life had a soundtrack, what would the greatest hits be? “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles? “Heartbreak Hotel” by Whitney Houston? “I Was Made for Loving You” by Kiss? Would there be different songs for different people in your life, each important person creating a new track in the compilation of your life? In Gina Noelle Daggett’s debut novel, Jukebox, now available from Bella Books, the lives of two young women, Harper and Grace are told through music, the powerful gateway into the soul.
Gina Noelle Daggett, best known as the femme persona of the dynamic Curve Magazine duo Lipstick and Dipstick, carefully weaves the complex lives of Harper and Grace together into one pure symphony. From the first page of the novel, which happens to be a playlist of the various songs referenced throughout the story, the reader is drawn into a world where every event really does have a song and where the two women draw their inspiration. The story starts off with The Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun,” setting up the backgrounds of the two women and how they met playing tennis at a young age. As the story progressed and Harper and Grace bloomed into beautiful young women, the attraction between them was evident, but Daggett did a beautiful job keeping readers in suspense as to “will-they-won’t-they.”
We watch as Harper and Grace face grueling tennis opponents, are debuted as debutantes, and must face the frightening world known as adolescence, all the while being subtly wooed by the background music that makes this novel like no other. The challenges these two women must face aren’t unlike the ones many of us had to face growing up: growing attraction, not understanding the feelings and emotions involved in relationships, resolving to date men until the “right” one comes along. Daggett’s characters were well thought out and very true to life, making them dance off the page to the beat of the music that rises and swells through each chapter of their lives.
As Harper and Grace mature and start realizing their mutual attraction, the musical accompaniment deepens and matures as well. Def Leppard’s “Love Bites” and Janet Jackson’s “Again” mingle with the likes of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and k.d. lang’s “Love is Everything” and I found myself creating my own iTunes playlist to listen to as I read. Both women have to overcome major struggles in their respective lives, but with Daggett’s creative style, not to mention her attention to detail and her ability to reach the reader on a deep emotional level, the ebbs and flows of Harper and Grace’s relationship now come with their own soothing soundtrack.
When we think about our lives, there are always certain people and certain events that define us. We all have that first love, who probably turned into the first heartbreak, the struggle to accept who were are, and the often-painful moments of coming out. In Jukebox, Gina Noelle Daggett blends those, along with countless other self-realizations and life-altering moments, together seamlessly using one of the most powerful forms of communication: music.
When one thinks of a “coming-of-age” story, it is often a span of short years—perhaps from adolescence to the beginning of adulthood—that takes one major event that fuels the main characters’ development, for better or worse. It is compact and convenient, yet it often leads to generalized and watered down “life stories” in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.
Jukebox is not that story.
Gina Noelle Daggett’s debut novel weaves the lives of the main characters into a seamless and organic narrative of love—where passion, anger, denial, and acceptance flow as a quiet stream into a full blown river of emotions and understandings, both of the characters’ selves and their relation to each other.
Beginning with their first meeting as children and ending as women nearing middle age, Jukebox (Bella Books) takes the reader through this journey of self-discovery and burgeoning passion through the eyes of Harper Alessi, a girl coming from old money and a life of privilege thanks to her grandparents’ upper class standing in Arizona.
Despite the wealth she (indirectly) has, Harper remains a sympathetic character because she allows herself to feel and experience emotions as they come. She never tries to relegate blame or act in an obtuse manner because of her social standing; Harper has her insecurities and problems, and in this case, money ends up exacerbating those problems, not solve them.
However, the issue of money (and thus, power) does not coming from Harper herself, but from her love interest, Grace Dunlop.
And this is where a small, if common, pet peeve of mine enters the narrative. Because the entire novel is told through Harper’s point of view and experiences, Grace is set up as this untouchable figure in Harper’s eyes, even though she is anything but.
This is not to say that Grace remains that way throughout the story, but I felt that Harper’s view of Grace (especially later into the book, when the issues over what the nature of their relationship and their sexuality are actually confronted) is overly sympathetic. This fact made it hard for me to read through Harper’s pain and anger at times; it left me losing sympathy for both of them because it became exasperating to read at times.
Ultimately, this small aspect does little to detract from the overall sense of growth that both characters experience, as Daggett leads them through high and lows, with secondary characters who compliment the story because they are given tangible and realistic personalities instead of being molded into two-dimensional plot contrivances to move the plot along.
If there is anything that I would call a major “critique,” it comes from the back cover description of the book. It presents all the clichés about “love at first sight” and being “soul mates” from the day they met, but that could not be further from the case. In fact, it was a pleasant surprise to see the relationship bloom from childhood friends to young women in love at a slower pace, as it did not feel heavy-handed and forced as I have come to expect from romance novels.
So, if I could give one recommendation, it would be not to judge a book (and in this case, a very well-written lesbian love story) by its cover — or rather, by its back cover.
Lambda Literary Review
What were your dreams as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up? Who were your friends? How did you decide how you would interact with others? How you would structure your relationships? What influenced your life? When did you 1st consciously find another person attractive? A woman? Admit you might be different than your society thought you should be?
These are the types of profound life events this novel leads you through, and prompts you to remember. It’s full of life and living, drama, textured characters and emotions, angst and love. The careful, yet lovely, vibrant prose paints a picture of depth and authenticity that was an absolute pleasure to read.
Even though no two people really live the exact same life, there is something so genuine about how the characters Harper and Grace–growing up together as privileged debutantes in Arizona, with all the pressures and expectations that go along with it–unselfconsciously form a deep bond that they never label or question. It just is. Until they are forced to decide, suddenly as individuals, what their relationship truly means to them as adults.
Not heavy or graphic on the sex, though it’s certainly there. Not as fluffy as some beach books, but neither is there a tragic ending, or too much angst that would keep me from reading it on vacation. The emotions often seem to have more weight or realism than you typically find in a book you’re reading for pure escapism, but I definitely wouldn’t let that put you off if you’re looking for a fine book to spend time with.
Brilliant emotional and sensory journey. Satisfying conclusion.
Seattle, WA from Amazon.com
Eleven year old Grace Dunlop has it all, a privileged lifestyle with a big trust fund. She meets Harper Alessi after her family moved from London to the USA. The two girls become best friends. They go through coming out as debutantes and college together. Along the way, their relationship begins to turn to a more passionate one than either girl is prepared for. After all, neither girl is gay, are they? They both struggle with their feelings and the fact that it is 1984 should make a difference, but it doesn’t. The jukebox plays on and decisions have to be made that will alter the course of both girls lives forever.
This is an excellent first book and hopefully the first of many. A mixture of heartbreak, humor and romance. A real page turner. Definitely a book I would read again and again. I only hope we don’t have to wait a decade for Gina’s next book.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jukebox. I confess to approaching it with some quiet angst, thinking that there was no way in hell’s half acre that I’d be able to identify with sorority girls from Arizona. As I got in to the book, I worried it was going to be all sex…which again, is something I can’t relate to. Jukebox concluded for me at about 2 am this morning, and I wasn’t able to sleep after I was done. I didn’t realize that it had such a hold on me, but I raced to the end and was completely delighted, so much so that I now need to read it again so that I can actually savour the book.
Thanks so much! I wish I had words to tell you what a good book means to me these days. Here in Port au Prince, I have a sketchy internet connection, no TV…. The book is fantastic, and it transported me completely out of my little patch of the third world. It more than gripped me. Throttled would be more like it. It was really a great read…and seriously, if i’m plugged into the story, that should prove the universality of the message because i’m such a hardbitten cynic, especially where love is concerned.
From Chile, where Picacho River is located, congratulations on your novel! I had an excellent time reading it and really enjoyed it. I read it in two days…
The novel hit me hard because I am not out yet, but planning to work on it during this year. I am scared.
Just for you to know, I am a Chilean lawyer that got a Fulbright Scholarship which allow me to attend UCLA Law School and eventually get an LLM degree there (with special mention in environmental law). I have worked a lot in environmental law in Chile and have a very good friend who attended Lewis & Clark Law School some years ago. So, your book have a lot of coincidences with somebody from “the end of the world”
I did not like that Harper’s parents died here. But I assume that for you in the US, the Patagonia is quite far away and kind of exotic. That’s ok.
Thank you for your book. It was VERY GOOD for me to read it. It helped.
I wish you success in your career. We definitively need people like you.
A decade is a long time. But, if the product of that period (your novel) is the possibility (or reality in this case) of touching and moving somebody that you do not know who lives in the other part of the world, that is quite something. It is a kind of “power” that very few talented people have. And you have it.
Email from Reader in Chili
I wanted to take the time to let you know how moved I was by your novel “Jukebox.” I have been familiar with your Lipstick column in Curve and liked your sense of humor so I thought I’d give your book a try last week. However, after reading the back cover I wasn’t sure I would be that into it. A story about 2 fems (I’m not that fem) who come from money (I do not at all), but I went with it anyway and I’m so glad I did!
Although I can’t relate to some of it, other parts of your book took me by surprise. My grandmother is wealthy and lives in Scottsdale, AZ and can’t stand me because I am gay so I have been cut out of the will long ago. My lesbian aunt lives in Portland, OR so I consider that to be my home away from home. My family is Italian as well. I’m also an artist. You described those places so well that I felt I was right there with the characters. I was amazed at that actually. You have such an eye for detail. I was really impressed.
The characters themselves and their lives made me cry at times. You made their story so real that I hurt with them throughout the story whether I had anything in common with them or not. I read your book in 3 days and couldn’t put it down. Such a sad tale, but a good one. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book I’ve really felt a connection with. It takes true talent to create characters and a story that people can connect to like that.
I read in your bio that it took you almost a decade (I think that’s right, but maybe not) to complete your book. I dabble in writing too, but can only seem to write short stories because it’s too hard for me to keep going like you did. Thank you for not giving up on your novel. The finished product is truly amazing and you should be proud of it, as I’m sure you are. It’s really good!
I’m also super excited that you’ll be making it into a film as well! I can’t wait until it comes out Good luck and thank you once again for your beautiful and touching first novel. May it not be your last!
Email from American Reader
It’s not that Jukebox, Gina Daggett’s debut novel, tells a story that’s never been told before. It’s not that she brings new twists to the lesbian love song that we’ve never heard before.
But Daggett’s voice is new, her take her own, her characters courageous and fresh. Together, they elevate Jukebox beyond the usual formula and make it a story worth sharing.
Xtra (Vancouver, BC newspaper)
Just dropping a line to let you know that I really enjoyed “Jukebox”, in fact it is one of my favourite books I’ve read out of the couple of dozen or so that I’ve read during the last couple of months I found it absolutely engrossing and moving and extremely well written with a wonderfully well rounded plot. I really liked your strong multi dimensional characters and your excellent character development, and I loved the interplay with the Jukebox.
Am glad to see on your website that you are planning on bringing this story to the big screen. I shall be very interested to see who you cast…No doubt the film will be occupying most of your time and energies, but I was wondering if you are planning on writing anymore novels in the future? I sincerely hope so.
Email from Australian Reader
I read ALOT of ebooks, I came across this new author on Bellabooks website. This is one of the most intense and beautifully well written stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I loved the ending and would love a sequel. Please, let this writer know her work is fabulous and I look forward to more of her work.
Email sent to Daggett’s literary agent
I just started your book last week and finished this weekend. I absolutely loved your book! I can honestly say that you did a fabulous job of recreating the angst and trials of coming into one’s sexual identity. What a wonderful love story and thank you for writing it for your readers. Cliche as it may sound- I could not put the novel down! The journey of their love was mesmerizing. I look forward to your second novel!
Email from Canadian Reader
What a charming love story with a message – two messages if you count the song titles that tie into the book chapters, and in turn, to the relationship between Harper and Grace. The important message to take away from this lush coming of age story is that the closet is toxic… It’s hard to believe that this is a first novel.