Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans
By Stef Kramer
CreateSpace, 312 pp., $12.49
Stef Kramer’s debut novel, Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans, is more than a coming of age flashback drama directed at Gen Xers. It’s a smart, thoughtful story about life decisions.
The quick introduction commences in the present, when “trying to be happy with life” Amy Gaer, wife, mother of three, and professional woman returns home from another day at the office. After getting the children in gear and putting on an old pair of acid-washed-ripped jeans to show her daughter fashion doesn’t always change, the reluctant tiger mom listens to her piano practicing teenage daughter. The music, tight jeans that she never wears, and memories sweep across the scene causing her to reflect.
The majority of the novel occurs in the summer of 1992. Young Amy decides the trajectory of her life starting with her May Graduation day, kind of, meaning she’s achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English, but plans to return in the fall to work on a business degree or maybe to wrap up a music minor. She heads home to rural Iowa for the summer, picks up a internship at a bank, runs into an old boyfriend, lives with the parents and then meets a married man, in the process of a divorce, with whom she’s, well, truth be told, she’s not sure what to think or feel about Nick.
Ms. Kramer delivers a well-written and well-crafted story with music, humor and character development. Music floats throughout; in fact most of the chapter titles are popular lyrics or song titles from the 70s through the early 90s. For example “Material Girl” is the chapter title of Amy’s interview at the bank, immediately calling to mind Madonna’s song (and video!) as the reader watches Amy, the English major, explain why she’d be a perfect fit for a summer teller position which the bank might transition to a management trainee program. Def Leppard, James Taylor, Guns & Roses, Whitney Houston, the Cheers Theme Song, Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, U2, OMD, Abba and more set the stage for each scene. Ms. Kramer also adds good doses of humor; Amy plays the Dead Game with her dad, poorly wears her mom’s clothes to work, owns several three-legged pig good luck pieces, drinks memorable shots like “slippery nipples”, and despite growing up in a farming community, knows little about farming. Lastly, Nick’s journals added a layer of complexity to his character and their relationship. Without them, Nick would have been a weaker character. Gordon and Dave, both of whom have physical and mental handicaps, also add a natural and needed dose of reality into Amy’s self-centered focus. Amy’s experience of gender roles, in the banking industry, aids her character’s growth too, despite her youth.
There is one minor challenge stemming from pace, appropriate for a movie or video but harder to process when read. At times the book is slow, perhaps to mimic the hot days of summer where every movement requires effort, or due to an over focus on Amy’s interior thought processes. Each chapter is tightly woven, none should be cut and they’re well edited, but some came off as interludes, when the reader is ready for more.
Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans is a fun, unique story, best read with others. A book club could create play lists, the drinks, and reminisce about those first few big decisions made when you finally enter the world as an adult.