Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: "Songs for a Teenage Nomad" by Kim Culbertson

Title: Songs for a Teenage Nomad
Author: Kim Culbertson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, 2007

Calle (pronounced Callie) and her mom have bounced from town to town each time her mother's relationships fall apart. She's been the new girl many times, and she doesn't see why Andreas Bay will be any different. But it is different—right away the drama kids accept her into their group of friends, and she begins an unlikely friendship (and maybe more) with popular football player Sam. She begins to really enjoy life in this small town by the sea. Unfortunately, her mother's relationship with her new husband starts to go south, as usual, so Calle is not sure how long it will last. Once again she faces the prospect of leaving, until she uncovers something that might point out a new reason why she and her mother always seem to be running.

I stumbled across this book through the database Novelist when it suggested this as a read-alike for another series I loved. It was nothing like that other series, but nonetheless I found it to be a great read. If you are a music fan, it's worth picking this one up. Each chapter is titled after a song, followed by a snippet of Calle's memory connected to the song. Music is what gets Calle through her constant moves and constant loneliness. She was also easy to relate to, with a voice so genuine you'll think of your own high school experience.

The plot certainly kept me reading, as well as my investment in the characters. Because we're hearing the story from Calle's perspective, we don't know the long history of the people in Andreas Bay. It all gradually comes out, both things in which Calle is alone in her ignorance and family secrets that only she and those involved know about. The secrets really strengthen the bonds between her and those she shares them with, though it takes a while for the trust to build.

In the meantime, we get all the teenage emotions with none of the over-dramatics. Calle is quiet and dignified in her struggles at school and in her family. She wants to learn more about her father, who she was told left her and her mom when she was a baby, but her mother won't even let her bring him up. She has wondered for years about him, and when new things come to light she isn't sure what to do or whether or not she can trust her mother anymore. In addition to all this, she is navigating uncharted territory with Sam, who is sending such mixed signals that it's almost like he's two different people. It's all for a reason of course, though it doesn't condone his behavior, and ultimately the confusion and pain make Calle a stronger person.

All in all, this is a great read with a real, genuine narrator and a compelling story. Plus, music!

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

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