I could not get enough of the Australian YA books last week, apparently, going from reading Jaclyn Moriarty's Ghosts of Ashbury High to Cath Crowley's A Little Wanting Song.
It's summer in Australia, which means Charlie is heading to her grandparents' place for Christmas. But it won't be the same, because now, in addition to Charlie's mother being gone, Gran is gone as well. And the ghosts are everywhere. Charlie still carries on conversations with her mother and Gran, despite their physical absence from her life. She is coming off a terribly embarrassing situation--losing her bikini top at a party filled with her peers--and she feels her closest friendship slipping away from her. So she turns to music, to her guitar, to writing, playing, and singing her own songs. But not in public.
Then there's Rose, who is desperate to leave her small town, frightened to death of following in her mother's footstep, and being stuck there. She's seen Charlie, her neighbor's granddaughter, year after year, but they've never been friendly. But this year she sees Charlie in a new light. Rose sneakily applied to (and was accepted at) a private school in Melbourne, but there's no way her mother would let her head out there on her own. What if she befriended Charlie and went back with her at the summer's end?
Cath Crowley's beautiful but quiet novel is no ordinary take on one friend taking advantage of another. It's so much more than that. It's the story of a girl coming into her own, finding a way to push through her grief and get the attention of her father who's still so consumed with his own, and using music to do all of these things. This story is told in alternating perspectives from Rose and Charlie, but it also has a quiet power in its song lyrics, scattered throughout the text. Cath Crowley has accomplished a rare achievement: absolutely believable song lyrics. I could really hear these songs and the way that Charlie might sing them. They weren't cheesy or silly or cliche. In fact, they reminded me so much of the kind of lyrics in the soundtrack to Once that I couldn't help but hear them in Marketa Irglova's voice.
This book is a must-read for any aspiring musician, or really, anyone who finds music moving and inspiring.