Wednesday 28 November 2012

Book Review: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

 'A summer of friendship, romance, and songs in major chords. . . .

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.

Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.'

I read A Little Wanting Song as part of the AWW2012 Challenge. I was drawn to Cath Crowley's writing in her book Graffiti Moon, which I reviewed back in August, and I wanted to read more of her work. 

A Little Wanting Song was actually written prior to Graffiti Moon and first released as Chasing Charlie Duskin. Having already read Graffiti Moon, it was obvious to me that this novel came before because it seems as though Cath is stretching her legs and her writing fingers. She has the idea to write from an artist's perspective (Charlie is an accomplished musician, songwriter and singer) but I don't feel Cath does it as well, or as powerfully poignant, in this novel as she did in Graffiti.

What's so prevalent in this book is a sense of longing. Everyone is longing for something, which is a great insight into teenage-hood! That's why Cath Crowley is such a wonderful YA writer - she is brilliant at showing life through a teen's eyes. The characters in this novel deal with a typical teen anxiety - they're desperate to be something they're not, but they are slowly realising that they need to just be themselves. Charlie and Rose both long for their own version of freedom, but seem unable to make it a reality.

This intense idea of longing also incorporates the characters' inability to let go - that's why there is the element of ghosts in the story because Charlie, her dad and her grandpa are each unable to let go of the dead. I see the evolution of their grief in the story - Charlie learns that she's been holding back just like her father has been. It is the sorrow that keeps her from loosening up and letting go in more ways than one. She needs to let go of her mum and gran, but also let go of her fear and allow herself to realise her potential.

A Little Wanting Song is a touching teen story and well worth a read. I liked this novel. It was very well-written and I could empathise with all of the characters, but the language wasn't as poetic as I was expecting after reading the beautifully lyrical Graffiti Moon.


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