First of all, I *need* someone to do a fanart of Opal in her punk rock tutu and her Mohawk wig and those shoes. I keep googling but nothing yet. Fan artists, please get on this! I have no skills in this area; somebody else has to do it!
First, I’m getting the large pachyderm out of the way: I thought this wasn’t as good as Daisy Jones & The Six. This is obviously not going to be a problem for people who haven’t read that book, but for people who have, the comparisons are unavoidable, these being the only two books I know of that are about fictional musicians in the 1970s told via faux oral history (among other non-spoilery similarities). Despite all these similarities, ultimately the two books are about different things, but it was very difficult for me (especially in the first half) to sink into the book the way I wanted. The fake history and fake pop culture and interviews didn’t seem as real to me as they could have. I never forgot what I was reading about wasn’t real. I think partly this is because Walton is a first time author, and partly because her narrator is muuuch more involved in the story than would happen in a real oral history.
But about halfway, about the time the central event of the narrative occurs, I was fully into this story. And the ending really sealed it for me. I loved Opal, so much. I also thought the ending justified the narrator’s strong presence. (A part of my problem with the first half was that I was confused how the author of the oral history that was being published could get away with spilling so much dirt on the people who were cutting her paychecks.)
I wish that this book had been a little bit more about the music than it was, but Opal & Nev is ultimately much more interested in examining power dynamics and the intersection of race and the music industry than it was about the creative process. It’s more about how the environment of the world can inhibit the creative process than it is actually about creating art, and it’s more about how art is often thwarted by economics instead of rewarding its creators monetarily.
I could very easily picture this as a movie, and I would pay money for that movie.
[3.5 stars, rounded up for the ending]