Fiction Book Review: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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Overview: The Six was a band started by two brothers that eventually grew to include another pair of brothers, a drummer, and a keyboardist. And together, led by Billy Dunne, they were good. Good enough to get enough attention to be flown out to LA to sign to a record label.
Daisy Jones was born into the glamorous Hollywood life but to distant, self absorbed parents. She soaked up the world of the Sunset Strip, though, and all the drugs and rock 'n roll that came with it. Both effortlessly beautiful and vocally talented, she easily scored a recording contract, but she only really wanted the one thing that didn't come perfectly naturally - to be a revered songwriter. Still, Daisy Jones was good too.
But then Runner Records, who had signed both the Six and Daisy Jones, made them great when they threw both acts on a billing together. And Daisy Jones & the Six was born, ready to, as most icons do, rise fast and flame out early. This is the story of how it happened. Overall: 5+
Characters: 5 There's a lot of spinning plates with this cast. Beyond seven band members to consider, there's Billy's wife, kids, journalists who encountered them, biographers, and record executives that all make cameos in the book. Billy and Daisy are the two main characters in life, but in the book, the formatting prevents them from stealing center stage all the time. The story is told in interview transcripts that intertwine pieces of everyone's stories so that up to ten people get to directly share their perspectives on what happened. Many of the character's lives revolved around Daisy and Billy, but their stories were never overshadowed in the book's retelling.
Daisy Jones is the classic "It-Girl". Beautiful and miserable and always high and to some people, beyond help. Daisy has always had it easy in the looks, money, and talent departments, and to someone like Billy who had to fight tooth and nail to get into the industry, it often looks like she's squandering those gifts. Daisy Jones is not terribly accustomed to working for things, and she's often the first person to stand in the way of her own success. Yes, it's a product of the way she was raised, but it's become a part of her personality nonetheless. Daisy's best friend and protector of sorts since she was young, Simone, makes many appearances throughout the book to give another point of view on Daisy's frequent spirals out of control and does represent a very honest love in Daisy's life - possibly her only. Daisy is a character, though, as doomed as she might seem at times, who is there for growth in the longterm and even in her worst moments remains compelling.
Billy Dunne is pretty sure the world revolves around him. Without a frontman, there's no show after all. But he's a control freak about every aspect of the records and doesn't ever feel the need to play well with others. In a six member band, he has the only vote that counts. Billy's story mainly centers on the struggle of being a married man who becomes a rockstar and a newly sober man who has to stay in a dangerous, drug-filled world for his career. His faith lies in his daughters and his wife, and that remains his anchor throughout the ups and downs of the book. He is as nuanced as Daisy, though they might as well be polar opposites. Daisy is the only one around strong-willed enough to push him into compromise. Camila, his wife, also shares her view of the rise of the band as an outsider there from the start. Her story is mostly one about being okay with an imperfect love and accepting that trust doesn't necessarily mean the expectation of a crystal clear life.
Warren, Pete, and Eddie are also in the band, but they probably play the most minimal roles in the story as added members instead of originals. They also have fully realized lives outside of the band or are less confrontational than other members, so they don't have as much time on the page. Even hanging in the background, though, they offer key insights into some events.
Karen, who plays keyboard, and Graham, Billy's brother who's also in the band, start dating which gives them their own story that weaves in and out of Daisy and Billy's. They have an interesting narrative around how hard it can be when two people are in love but have totally different points of view on what the ideal future is.
In nearly every relationship covered in this book, my mind went back to the new Finneas song "Love Is Pain".
Plot: 5 I never wanted put the book down. The constantly switching points of view because of the formatting kept it dynamic, and there was always drama with the band to try to work through. There might have been a few small moments that lagged as they worked on the sometimes monotonous process of making the album, but it felt true to life and authentic to the reality of creating a complete history of a band. This book honestly did a phenomenal job of reading very similarly to much of the nonfiction I've read about real rock bands.
Towards the end of the book, it gets absolutely incredible as a twist is revealed as to who the author of the book as a character in the narrative is. The reveal completely flips the script and allows the book to take on a new tone as you read about the final collapse of the band and the lives they all came to live afterwards. I don't want to spoil the ending at all, but I liked that she followed up with a sort of "where are they now" thing that gave the book a feeling of completeness. Even though it wasn't a fairytale ending and some of the outcomes felt as senseless as, well, real life, it also provided a feeling of closure to the story that left some peace of everyone ending up where they needed to be, living some version of a life they seemed meant to live. It was a nice reminder that happiness can come in all forms and that sometimes what you think you want out of life at 15, 20, 28, or 30 isn't what will keep you satisfied forever.
Writing: 5 Now I get why Taylor Jenkins Reid is such an incredibly popular author. She has extremely complex characters but never lets the plot get weighed down by them. Her writing style is a quick read and has a heft to it without ever becoming laborious. She's able to meld together intrigue and heart effortlessly. The twists and turns felt natural, and she was able to make a world so full that Daisy Jones & the Six felt like they could've truly been another '70s rock band. I never wanted to put the book down, and I absolutely love her choice of formatting and style for this book. The transcript format and occasional asides from the author truly kept it grounded and gave a story as massive as this one much needed breathing room.
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