Mosh It Up, Mindela Ruby
Pen-L Publishing, 2014
Reviewed by Catherine Vlahos
Even if the only thing you know about punk is that Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon album is widely regarded as a masterpiece, Mindela Ruby’s hardcore, hard-knocked punk protagonist Boop demands your attention and never lets go. Mosh It Up may be authored by Ruby, but it is definitely Dickinson “Boop” Park in charge of telling her own wild story—one of addiction, music, sex, friendship, and fate.
We meet Boop well on her way to rock bottom, sitting on the floor of her “neighborhood drink-tank.” It’s the late 90s in the San Francisco Bay area, and punk is in. After a couple of Boop’s witty and blunt observations, it becomes clear that she has a stubborn, two-track mind: The A-side is her punk band’s (self-declared) starry future, and the B-side is sex—violent, life-consuming, self-destructive sex. Boop’s road to recovery only begins when she discovers her terminally-ill neighbor Sada suffering next door, and the ride is long, treacherous, and ultimately healing.
It is a talent for an author to abandon any sense of their own voice (or what you think it may sound like) when penning a first person narrative. That is where Mosh It Up’s greatest strength comes through; Boop’s voice is unlike any character I’ve experienced before. I may have had to reread the first page to understand what she was even saying at first—Boop speaks her own unique jam session of slang, puns, jokes, and sarcasm that can’t be mistaken for anyone else, making her a true headliner among first person narrators.
While slang is considered lazy in real life, Ruby’s writing is anything but. Snappy, vivid, unabashed, and completely her own, Boop’s thoughts jump off the page. Each line boasts its own beat and is carefully crafted to deliver the right punch of sounds to the reader—even though Boop claims she “can’t even write a song to save [her] life,” her dialogue is lyrical and complex and truly entertaining to read.
Despite Ruby’s energetic storytelling style, the tale she tells is decidedly dark. The physical abuse Boop believes she enjoys from her reckless hookups isn’t easy to stomach, and neither is Sada’s battle with Progressive Systemic Sclerosis. This is especially true for someone who admittedly cries very easily (read: me). However, these scenes were necessary to propel me to the very bottom of the barrel with Boop—the raw, aimless, dangerous bottom—and to stand as monuments of old, destructive habits for Boop to kick down one by one as she finally confronts the sinister fragments of memories that control her entire life.
When flipping back through the beginning of Mosh It Up, I fully appreciated the complete transformation Boop undergoes. It feels subtle and natural, and there are certainly setbacks that make you cringe—but also moments that make you cheer like you were headbanging in the front row of an Up the Wazoo concert (Boop’s all-girl punk band). Whether you were (or are) a dedicated concert-goer or never leave the house aside from grocery shopping, Boop’s journey will take you somewhere wild, provocative, and enlightening.