3 out of 4 stars
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It’s the start of 1965, the era of free spirits, love and flower power. In Gina Marie’s novel, Good Vibrations (The Craynes Greatest Hits), four young men, strangers, individually embark on a personal journey across the United States which brings them together in one of the hubs of hippie life, Los Angeles, California.
Alex, Jamie, Sebastian, and Danny are very different people but they are brought together by fate and form the best sort of bond. One that’s built on instant connection, carefree living, mutual interests, genuine friendship and musical talent. Together the four form a band, The Craynes, and head into the rock scene of the sixties. Jump forward several years and the end of an era is looming. In helping Jamie pack his bags as he moves on to the next stage in his life, the friends find various mementos, bringing back events in their mutual history. The packing is put on hold as the group reminisce about their friendship together.
Written in third person, the story builds on the four characters, making them both three-dimensional and realistic. Jamie is like a big puppy, over excitable, energetic and good hearted, throwing himself into every new experience which comes his way. He has a sense of innocence about him that makes him both likeable and relatable. Alex, as the sensible one of the group, is all the more believable when he finally breaks down, either in anger or jealousy, as it shows that not everyone is perfect. Both Danny and Sebastian are easy go lucky characters from such different walks of life, that they themselves epitomise the very essence of the sixties, where people were easily accepted for who they were rather than who they’d been. A character in itself is the beach house where they all live in Miami. Vividly described, it has seen the joining of the friends, their ups and downs, as well as changed their lives for the better.
While not fast paced or action packed, the story flows well and is easy to read. It’s full of good natured humour as the characters tease each other, exactly how you would expect a group of young male friends to do. While there are also some serious issues brought up, such as bisexuality, homosexuality and overdose, it is done with such candor and ease that it never overwhelms the story.
There were unfortunately some editing errors which, while not affecting the flow of the story, did bring the overall quality of the novel down a little. It’s also important to note that there is a lot of drug use throughout the book in the form of smoking marijuana. While in keeping with the era of the story, there may be those readers who it would not appeal to.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It had a sense of warmhearted innocence and friendship about it, making me remember the sort of friends which I had in my twenties with fondness. The sort of friendships that are flexible and accepting and the notion of a spontaneous road trip across the country is met with immediate enthusiasm. If I could give half marks I would give 3 1/2 stars, but as I can't, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars due to the editorial errors. Classified as other fiction, this is a book for anyone who likes to relive the era of flower power, good music, friendship and freedom and who also enjoys a good simple romance.
The Craynes Greatest Hits
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