Reviewed by Anastasia Olashaya-Grill
Music flings itself off the pages of Mosh It Up thanks to Mindela Ruby’s jive-popping prose. Told from Dickinson “Boop” Park’s first person POV, the recovering sex addict/punk rocker/all-girl punk rock band manager, Mosh It Up takes place in the derelict districts of the San Francisco Bay area at the tail of the 90’s/early 00’s era. Boop is a dreamer with a good heart but the definition of a hot mess; a chronic problem regarding willpower (or a lack thereof), a growing restless with her life, and considerable issues seeing the worth inside herself—or seeing that she is worthy of love. Until that point, the reader rides along on Boop’s conscious/conscience—for good, bad, or indifferent—as she seeks validation and love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.
The flow of the novel is fast. Even so, Mosh It Up finds ways to mix up the otherwise standard first person POV narrative.
The easiest difference to spot is the use of present tense verbs as opposed to past tense which invites the reader to ride along inside Boop’s as the actions take place; there is no self-reflection of a future Boop recounting this to a reader with pearls of wisdom and insight on the gravity of a situation—there is only the present, there is only that exact moment, right then and there.
Transitions between chapters vary from screenplay format to poetry to lists, all of which add variety as well as authenticity to the Bay Area Boop’s tale takes place in. Another interesting decision: Slipping into another character’s head as Boop imagines how that person thinks or perceives a situation or person (usually Boop herself)—and, not only that, writing that imagined perception in present tense, first person POV.
Then there’s the fact that the book starts off with Boop’s ending: She ends up happy, safe, and loved. Of course, one of the major differences is that Boop’s future hubby doesn’t show up until roughly the last ten to fifteen percent of the book.
The only real downside is the ending comes too quickly. Everything is wrapped up, haphazardly, which suits the way the wayward protagonist is; however, Ruby’s own author’s note acknowledges that Mosh It Up had been longer in the previous drafts. Perhaps something got lost with the changes. The last ten percent or so of the book leaves some loose ends that with a bit of a concerning sour note, regardless of the knowledge that Boop ends up okay a few years down the track—but you can’t really say “she’s fine in the end” because you, the reader, can’t really know for sure. You aren’t there to experience. That assurance comes secondhand.
All in all, Mosh It Up is an addictive read, set in a scene that many readers would doubtless love to know more about—feel some extra “flesh” in the narrative. Solid, lyrical, and wonderfully human, Mosh It Up makes for an engrossing read. Boop embodies an oft-quoted line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we believe we deserve,” which makes Boop a relatable character as well as a protagonist readers will want to cheer for.
Through every success, failure, backslide, and surprising large step forward, Mosh It Up is full of a raw beat that is sometimes dirty, sometimes sad, and nearly always heartbreaking. Boop’s story is extremely human. Ruby’s way with words captivates and often deserves a second or third reading to catch all the subtleties present. Like a good piece of music, there is more than one way to experience this novel.
Mindela Ruby received her from Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches college, moonlighting as a writing coach and editor. MOSH IT UP is her first book.