SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD
by Kim Culbertson
pub: Sept 1, 2010
After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen-year-old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own sound track through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth she uncovers about her father that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.
We all know realistic contemporary YA isn't my first choice of genre, so when I enjoy one, that's saying something.
Writing: Beautiful, smooth and - dare I say? - lyrical. Each chapter starts with a bit from Calle's song journal mentioning songs and how they relate to defining moments in her past, and, as we find out, how they connect with something that happens in the chapter.
Characters: Calle's strength comes through but she's also vulnerable. There's teen angst but the drama isn't overdone and Calle never comes across as whiny. She's realistic in thought and feeling, honest and easy to relate to. Her desire to fit in, find stability, her ache to know about her father and the truth of her family's past is heartbreaking. I liked that while she really wanted to fit in, she wasn't willing to lose herself to do it. The characters are rich, complex and real - her quirky friends, the hot-and-cold (and troubled) love interest, her annoying mother, and "dead-beat" dad.
Plot/Pacing: Not fast or slow, the plot moves at a steady pace. We're given hints that there is more to everyone's story, and the reveals are interesting and surprising, adding new dimensions to characters and relationships. Family secrets and lies, people hiding who they really are, and Calle caught in the middle trying to find her place in the world, all make for a book I didn't want to put down. The ending ties things up nicely.
Caveats/Concerns: None really. Real people, interesting story, nothing inappropriate - good for any age.
Cover: I like it and think it really works in expressing the story.
Bottomline: I've never gone through what Calle has but because of her authentic teen voice I could still relate to her on many levels. This isn't a blow-your-socks-off kind of story. It eases you in like a favorite lullaby, then wraps you into the cozy blanket of endearing characters and engrossing story that develops like a flower blooming in your hands. Hmmm...contemporary teen fiction and I liked it. Who knew?