Davey Havok - Pop Kids
Record Label: Black Candy Publishing
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Davey Havok has quite a resume. For over 20 years, he's been known as the vocalist for AFI, with whom he's sold millions of records, among countless other accomplishments. He also fronts a successful electronic side project, Blaqk Audio. He's an actor of both the screen and stage, in addition to lending his voice to several animated films. He has designed clothing and jewelry lines. He was even named World's Sexiest Vegetarian by peta2. Now, with the release of his debut novel, Pop Kids, he can add "author" to his ever-growing list of accolades.
The press release for Pop Kids begins with a bold statement: "Move over Holden Caufield - Here comes the new teenage hero." While Havok does explore complex themes of teen angst, belonging and rebellion, Pop Kids is far less introspective than J. D. Salinger's seminal work; it's more like the The Catcher in the Rye for the Fifty Shades of Grey generation.
Pop Kids is narrated by Mike Massi, or Score as he becomes better known. Havok inserted many autobiographical elements into the protagonist: Score is an Italian, straight edge, (mostly) vegan 17 year-old who was raised Catholic but identifies as an atheist. He listens to '80s British music almost exclusively, worshiping at the altar of Morrissey, yet he's steeped in modern culture and technology.
Unlike the classic antihero Holden Caufield, Score is not particularly relatable. In fact, he's hardly even likeable. Not only is he a fairly well-adjusted, carefree, privileged youth, but he's pretentious and obnoxious. He's obsessed with social status, pop culture, style and himself. He and his lustful girlfriend get intimate within the first dozen pages of the book, and it's only the first of many, many sexual exploits throughout Pop Kids.
Score has aspirations of fame far beyond his suburban high school when he begins throwing Premiere parties. He invite his closest friends, each of whom adopts a pseudonym based on a famous actor or filmmaker (which can get confusing amongst the ancillary characters), to watch classic movies at a local, abandoned hotel. Although they begin as lavish, private parties for the seven friends who dub themselves Filmgreats, it takes surprisingly little for them to escalate into full-blown orgies with an ever-expanding cast of extras.
Havok presents an interesting concept, but it drags with repetitiveness. The gatherings become increasingly and expectedly out of control with more attendees, more sex, more drugs and more trouble. Score finds himself with a schoolboy crush on the immaculate new girl, Holly, juxtaposed amongst the amateur swingers. Meanwhile, he has to juggle his sometimes-girlfriend in a classic sitcom scenario.
It should come as no surprise that Havok is a good writer. His wordplay offers a poetic whimsy - right down to the sexual euphemisms - without coming off as overly lyrical. The book does, however, contains several errors that should have been caught by an editor. They're mostly forgivable grammatical mistakes, but some are so glaring (Miley Sirus!) that I wonder if the story was ever proofread prior to publishing.
As its title suggests, Pop Kids demonstrates the commercialization of today's youth. Pop culture, celebrities, brands and the like certainly influence the characters, and their lives are driven by the internet, texting and social media, but the social commentary feels like an afterthought to the pornographic orgies.
Pop Kids' biggest downfall may be its lack of emotionally impact. Havok creates several instances with the potential for great drama - a teacher attending the secret sex party, footage from one of the sultry soirees leaking online, a possible murder - but they never amount to anything beyond a close call and a missed opportunity. Similarly, the perfunctory ending feels like Havok didn't know how to conclude the story and merely settled on an abrupt anti-climax.
Longtime fans of Havok's work will be curious to see his literary ambition, and perhaps hormonal teens will enjoy Pop Kids' raunchy prose, but otherwise it's a largely unsuccessful experiment in self-indulgence. The novel is the first in a planned trilogy, and, although this installment failed to live up to its potential, I'm interested to see where Havok goes from here. Hopefully he learns from this experience, dedicates additional time to hashing out the story and delivers a more exciting follow up to Pop Kids. Even if Havok is never able to produce a compelling novel, something tells me he'll do alright for himself.