Thursday, 26 August 2010

Review - A Little Wanting Song / Cath Crowley

CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.

Review - If there is one word that encapsulates A Little Wanting Song - it would be delicate.  Crowley has a light and elegant touch that weaves its way around the reader and tiptoes on their consciousness.  Even more remarkable is that this deftness crosses two individuals perspectives and still manages to give two distinctly unique teen voices.  Both girls are restless, wanting what the other has and having no means in which to pursue it.

Charlie's gone through some rough times and it just keeps coming at her like a freight train.  Most authors would choose then to make their protagonist retreat inward but Charlie starts her journey in establishing a place for herself in an outward sense.  Instead of whining, she expresses her feelings in well crafted song lyrics that pepper the chapters.  In wanting to be visible, in pursing connections with others, Charlie finds inner strength and confidence.  In her songs she finds freedom to let her thoughts and feelings tumble out.

Rose is a different kettle of fish.  She desperately wants to escape the world that Charlie wants so dearly.  The setting is all Rose as she colours it with stories of her childhood friendship with the prickly Luke and affable Dave.  Her uncommunicative relationship with her mother both mirrors and contrasts to that of Charlie and her father - parent and child separated by grief, disappointment and what is not conveyed.

If Charlie is the heart of this expressive story then Rose it its eyes.  That is not to say that either of them can be pigeonholed but they do bring different elements to the story.  Elements that allow them to round out one another, question the integrity of their motives and to push themselves and the story to a deeper level.  The character development and overall narrative is so real, so gradual that you don't even notice as it washes over you.  It is seamless storytelling. Every character has clear intent and direction, even if they prefer to stand still.  With two perspectives it can be easy to become lazy with supporting characters but Crowley uses the perspectives to interlace, to fill the character in to a degree that you could touch them.

Cath Crowley has constructed an outstanding novel here.  She has demonstrated that storytelling in YA can be gentle and still pack a powerful punch.

Publisher: Knopf
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Published: June 8, 2010
Source: author
Origin: USA/Australia


Melissa Walker said...

This cover really intrigued me, and it seems it fits the book well. Delicate. I like the sound of that.

Into The Morning Reads said...

I'm with Melissa. The cover is very eye-catching. It's exquisite and sounds like it matches the feel of the book as you described it. I too like the sound of that.

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Alexander Bennett (Tales of a Teenage Book Lover) said...

I really wanna read this now!

little_stranger said...

Well said, Adele. I read the Australian edition of this several years ago – it was called Chasing Charlie Duskin. I thought it was a fantastic book and this review captures many of my feelings. The dual perspectives are superbly complementary, and much depth of feeling is achieved without overt histrionics. Oh, and I love books that can integrate music with narrative like this. This review makes me want to read it again.

Apparently the US edition is slightly different from the Australian one, with some of Charlie’s song lyrics included. The US cover is great, although I prefer the Australian cover:

It was the first Cath Crowley book I read, and it was the cover that caught my eye first when in the library actually. Perhaps it was slightly vulnerable and, yes, delicate, stare of the girl.

Natalie said...

Delicate can be a very good thing! I want to read this one, another added to my TBR pile.

You have an award waiting

LibraryDoggies said...

I had to check the title as I thought that it must be a sequel. but now I realise it's different jacketing . For 'You might also like" , I would like to see Cath's Gracie Faltrain series. They are great too; the last one in 2008.

Alyssa (Redhead Heroines) said...

I completely agree with your review! This book was so seamless and delicate, but seriously gets under your skin. I LOVED it! :)

- Alyssa of Redhead Heroines

Book Review of “A Little Wanting Song” by Cath Crowley