Friday, April 03, 2020

A Song Only I Can Hear

Jonsberg, Barry. A Song Only I Can Hear
April 7th 2020 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rob lives in Australia with his family, including a feisty grandfather who is in a nearby nursing home. He has an enormous crush on new girl, Destry Camberwick, but doesn't know quite how to approach her. He talks to his grandfather, who doesn't have that many suggestions, but soon starts getting texts from a mysterious number, challenging his to do things to impress the girl, like walking dogs and joining in a local talent show. All of these things end up being good for Rob, especially walking one small dog belonging to one of his grandfather's friends at the nursing home. Rob is curious about other's experience with love, and realizes his grandfather has never talked about his grandmother. He finally opens up, and Rob finds out that his father was a soldier during Vietnam and struggled with PTSD so badly that the grandmother returned home to Italy, leaving the grandfather to have to buckle down raise Rob's father. At the talent show, Rob publicly reveals an open secret that changes his relationship with Destry but gives him new confidence in himself. If you don't want spoilers for this one, don't read the reviews on Goodreads, but know that this has an LGBTQIA connection.
Strengths: I'm a sucker for books with amusing grandparents, and Rob's grandfather is very gruff and outspoken, but also clearly cares for Rob. Certainly, middle school crushes are often very intense, so Rob's infatuation with Destry is quite believable. The twist at the end is well done, and the characters are generally nuanced and sympathetic.
Weaknesses: This is on the long side, and a bit slow paced, although it is fun to watch all of Rob's activities. And did Rob have to be quite so mean about his middle aged father's appearance?
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Tom Mitchell's How to Rob a Bank, but wasn't quite as amusing. I was sure that Rob was on the autism spectrum-- the voice is a bit odd, which makes a little bit of sense after the twist at the end. It might also just be that Australian writers have a different style. Debating.
Ms. Yingling

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