Book Review: ‘Songs Only You Know’ By Sean Madigan Hoen

Written by Allison Lips

Sean Madigan Hoen explores his rough teenage years in Songs Only You Know. Unlike a lot of memoirs writers, Hoen manages to avoid making you feel bad for him. It’s quite a feat, especially since he comes from the Detroit area, a part of the country equally known for cars and misery.


Songs Only You Know is set in Detroit’s 1990s rock scene, but it’s really about Hoen finding himself. The book covers his father’s crack addiction, his parents’ divorce, his sister’s battle with depression. This all happens while Hoen simultaneously tries to make it big and hide his rock life from his family, which takes a devastating toll on his sister.

Hoen’s memoir is not an easy read. There are times when he comes dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of his father, who seemed to have it all, yet throughout his life, was just as lost as his son.

Despite their problems and a natural tendency to pull away from the people they love, the Hoens were always there for each other. Underneath it all, Hoen’s family was surprisingly normal for a family that was far from perfect. That’s probably why Songs Only You Know is a well-written memoir by someone who is troubled, talented, and has finally gotten on the right path in life; instead of a 300 page rant against humanity.

When Hoen wasn’t dealing with his home life, he was trying to escape it through music. His bands and their tours were a reprieve from his father’s crack addiction and his sister’s depression, but they also lead him to trouble. There were times Hoen experimented with drugs, hung around the wrong people, and sought out revenge for people he felt wronged him. As he grew up, he worked hard to move away from his past, which is why Hoen no longer comes across as a punk up to no good.

Every middle class kid in their late-teens and early-twenties should read Songs Only You Know because it authentically explains what it’s like to have everything you could want, but still feel unhappy as you discover life isn’t perfect and you’re almost an adult. Unless you are the one person in the world whose high school years were amazing, you will find something in the book you can relate to.

Anglophile, Rockabilly, Pompadour lover, TV and Music Critic