Sunday, November 21, 2021

Candidly Cline

Ormsbee, Kathryn. Candidly Cline
November 9th 2021 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cline lives near Lexington, Kentucky with her mother and grandmother, since her father died when she was very young. The family is struggling a bit. Cline's mother is a waitress who works long hours at a close knit diner, and her grandmother is struggling with Alzheimer's. Cline's passion is music, and she really wants to be a singer songwriter even though her mother tells her that there is no money in it, and that's why the mother gave up her idea of a music career. When Delia, another waitress, mentions a workshop for young singer songwriters being held at the University of Kentucky, Cline knows that this will make all of the difference in her life, and she needs to pursue attending even when it means lying to her mother. Her grandmother supports her and even gives her $100 towards the $300 needed to attend, and that's enough for Delia to agree to drive Cline to class when she also has a class at UK. Conveniently, the workshop meets on a day that Cline's mother works late. Cline also gets a job babysitting at the nursery where her best friend, Hollie, goes to church, and earns $15 a week. She manages to apply, get accepted, and show up to the workshop without the full payment, but the organizers agree to take payment by the end of the classes. Learning more about music is perfect, and Cline also enjoys working with Sylvie, who is a bit prickly at first because she was suffering from a migraine, but quickly warms to Cline and to the idea of a collaborative song. Meanwhile, her grandmother steadily declines, and Cline struggles with telling the world that she's not interested in boys the way all of her friends are. An incident with Hollie estranges the two and causes Cline to worry that it's not safe to tell others about her emerging sexuality, even as she realizes that she has a crush on Sylvie.Will she be able to continue her musical ruse long enough to compete in a talent show with her new collaborator and crush?
Strengths: Cline is definitely an intriguing character, who has strong opinions about what she wants out of life. I did enjoy the fact that she knows throughout the book that she's not interested in boys, but this isn't quite a coming out story, either. Her community is filled with supportive and helpful characters, like the abetting Delia, and Mrs. Yune, who runs the church nursery but doesn't agree with all of the church's views. The class is interesting, and the collaborative relationship with the rock-centric Sylvie is a nice foil for Cline's classic country music background. The mother is realistically busy and struggling to adjust and pay for the grandmother's medication; there's even a mention of splitting pills in order to be able to afford them, as well as negotiating with a local pharmacy. The progression of the relationship with Sylvie is realistic and nicely paced. 
Weaknesses: I was not a fan of lying about taking the class, and this is emerging as a trend, with similar themes of deception in taking classes in Kim's Stand Up, Yumi Chung and Joseph's Sydney A. Frankel's Summer Mix-Up. This is especially concerning because Cline was supposed to be watching her grandmother. Also, as someone who pursued her passion of teaching Latin even though it was a superbly bad idea, I agreed wholeheartedly with the mother that Cline should be more concerned with remunerative career choices.
What I really think: My students will read anything with an LGBTQIA+ theme, but never pick up books about girls who want to be singers (sadly, the somewhat similar Tune It Out circulates infrequently). Debating.

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