The Truth of Rock and Roll is a novella by Matthew Keville. It begins with the narrator, a teenage boy, sitting by Bethesda Fountain, mourning the fact that his dreams have gone off track at the age of seventeen. Then an older man - a man "made of gray" - sits down beside him, and begins to tell him a story. At first, the narrator tries to brush him off and get away, but soon he's drawn into the story in spite of himself.
The Gray Man has lived a disappointing life; he let his own dreams die long ago. But he tells the story of what came before that - when he was young, when he was in love...and when there was Rock and Roll Magic.
The Tropes of The Truth of Rock and Roll:
- Abusive Parents: When Jenny gets suspended from school, she has to stay out an extra day "to let the bruises heal to the point she could cover them with makeup.” They're pretty good at emotional abuse, too. Meanwhile, Johnny's parents are extremely controlling, and turn truly nasty if balked.
- The Adjectival Man: A non-villainous example in the Gray Man.
- Alpha Bitch: Mona Southton. It doesn't work out well for her.
- Anthropomorphic Personification:
- The Leader of the Pack at first seems to be "the avatar of all the rebels in black leather jackets in all the rock songs ever made", but he's actually much older than that. He's "every night-riding outlaw who ever rode a black horse through a song."
- Jenny comes to embody the Rebel Girl in rock & roll songs. By doing so, she greatly increases the incidence of such characters in those songs.
- Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Jenny when she becomes the Rebel Girl; The Gray Man when he returns to being Johnny and joins her in Rock And Roll Heaven
- Badass Creed: Two of 'em: "It's about rockin', not remembering" and “That’s what Rock and Roll really is, you know – beneath all the motorcycles and cars and leather jackets – it’s about being young and being brave. Young leaves us all, but you have to let Brave go of your own free will."
- Blithe Spirit: While Jenny has lived in the same town her whole life, she may still count as Johnny doesn't really get to know her until the beginning of the story.
- Category Traitor: Brett considers Johnny to be this for dating a girl from the trailer park and treating her too well. He and Johnny are both from "the heights", a rich part of town, and while using a lower-class girl for sex would have been okay, treating her like a real girlfriend might give her ideas above her station.
- Good Bad Girl: Jenny. However, while she really is this, her reputation is exaggerated - due to an unfortunate confluence of clothing, bearing, and family reputation, she was known as the School Slut when she was still a virgin.
- Groin Attack: Jenny's way of dealing with violent Jerk Jocks.
- Ignored Epiphany: Johnny becomes the Gray Man because he forgets Jenny's lessons.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Jenny has some elements of this, though she also has her dark moments and her own story.
- My Girl Is a Slut: Johnny comes to love Jenny for her experience and Good Bad Girl free-spiritedness. However...
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: ...he will defend her reputation to the death, even if he is grossly ill-suited for the task.
- Non-Action Guy: Johnny. That's okay; Jenny doesn't mind taking care of those matters for him.
- Our Angels Are Different: Jenny becomes a Rock and Roll Angel. She doesn't have wings, but she does have wheels, and she's still a being of great power.
- Refusal of the Call: Johnny had the chance to join Jenny in Rock and Roll Heaven and become an Anthropomorphic Personification himself. He backed out, becoming the Gray Man as a result, and it's many years before he has a chance to set things right.
- Shout-Out: Another Time, Another Place...
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: “And that was good. That was right. Jenny was made for another time and another place. She never fit in here.”