Book Review: Harder to Breathe by Ryan Dusick

I’ve been a Maroon 5 fan for quite a long time—12 years, to be exact. I’m unique to some die-hard fans in that my original introduction to the band was not their original masterpiece Songs About Jane, but rather one of the group’s more widely criticized albums, 2013’s Overexposed, which I personally have always considered to be a pretty great collection of pop music. Nonetheless, I quickly memorized all of the band’s songs and realized how special the group’s freshman album was and how important it was to pop rock music in the 2000s.

I’ve been curious about Maroon 5’s founding drummer, Ryan Dusick, ever since I learned that he was with the band since its Kara’s Flowers days and had to leave the group due to injuries sustained during one of the band’s most legendary—and grueling—tours. I used to wonder how the disappointment of having to leave a group at the height of its fame and success would affect someone’s life.

Due to my past interest, I was quite intrigued when I learned that Dusick had written a memoir about his experiences in Maroon 5 and the aftermath of having to leave the group. I realized I had to read it. As it turns out, this book is a fascinating and important read for music lovers, Maroon 5 fans, and nonfiction enthusiasts alike.

While this book is labeled as a memoir, it is so thorough that I believe Dusick has really written his autobiography here. Readers learn about his childhood, teenage, and young adult years, as well as the founding of Kara’s Flowers and later Maroon 5. The book delves deeply into the making of Kara’s Flowers sole studio album, The Fourth World, as well as the aforementioned, acclaimed record Songs About Jane that was Maroon 5’s first foray into stardom. 

Music lovers from all types of backgrounds will appreciate the fascinating journey that the band members went on to create their success. Regardless of your feelings about the band, it is hard to deny that they put in more than their fair share of work to get to the level of success that they have today once you read this book. 

Dusick’s recounting of the band’s interactions with other stars of the 2000’s is also fascinating, probably particularly so to pop culture enthusiasts and music lovers. Dusick is a gifted writer, which makes these sections and the rest of the book very entertaining. 

Dusick easily and naturally draws the reader into the room with him, whether he is drumming on stage to a massive crowd or chatting with Ivanka Trump at a party. I felt a strong urge to keep turning the page as I read about his complex and interesting life. The surprisingly jam-packed photo insert in the middle of the book helps to emphasize the realness of Dusick’s life story even further.

This memoir seems to be marketed primarily as being about Dusick’s life after leaving the band and his sometimes destructive mindsets as a drummer. However, this part of the book was the only one that disappointed me somewhat. 

What Dusick included about his struggles with addiction, OCD, and other challenges was both heartbreaking and inspiring, but I also felt that it took up very little space in the book compared to the amount of information Dusick included about forming Kara’s Flowers/Maroon 5, recording the group’s first albums, and going on tour. I almost feel as if Dusick could have broken his story up into two full books or written a longer volume to better tie together his struggles and his past life as the drummer of Maroon 5.

Despite these slight flaws, the book is overall an inspiring piece that reminds readers that you can lose your footing in the most striking of ways and still come out the other side. The book resembles a self-help guide at times, which some readers may not like; I, however, found this to be refreshing in a memoir of this style, as the author knows what helped him through the dark periods of his life and clearly wants to share what he has learned with the world. 

Whether you are an avid Maroon 5 collector or just love a fascinating real-life story, Harder to Breathe is a page-turner and a must-read that will remind you of the challenges we all must face and try to rise above in life.

Here’s where you can buy Harder to Breathe:

Barnes & Noble

Penguin Random House

More Links on Ryan Dusick’s Website

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