(Original review posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/35801.html)Why I Read It:
Australian YA has been taken the YA blogosphere by storm in the past year or two. In that storm, Cath Crowley emerged. I've seen reviews for this title (as well as Crowley's sophomore novel Graffiti Moon which is being released in North America tomorrow!) all over and there was something about it that just sounded GOOD. So, when I made that giant order back in December, I added it to the pile.
A Little Wanting Song is the story of Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler. Charlie is ridiculously musically talented, but equally shy. Rose wants more than anything to get out of the small town she feels trapped in. When Charlie visits said small town to visit her grandfather for summer vacation, Rose sees a way out: even though she's never been exactly NICE to Charlie, if she befriends her, she might have her ticket out of her small town.
I loved loved loved this novel. Told in alternating POVs from Charlie and Rose's perspectives, I fell in love with both girls as well as the boys in the story, Luke and Dave (the former being Rose's trouble-making boyfriend, the latter their best friend and Charlie's crush.) They were all so flawed and lovable even when they were being jerks or doing the wrong thing.
Even though the story is told from both Charlie and Rose's perspectives, it still felt like Charlie's story (which is possibly why it was titled Chasing Charlie Duskin in Australia). She has a little more going on in her life than Rose, which might have contributed to that: she copes with the death of her mother, but consequently has a father he pays little to no attention to her. She's also dealing with the much more recent death of her grandmother, whom she loved dearly. To top things off, she's dealing with a falling-out with her best friend. I felt so sorry for Charlie having to deal with all that. I also felt an instant connection with her because of her shyness. When I was 13-14 I was much the same way and figured that the only way for people to not dislike me was to be quiet and introverted (which of course just prevented me from making new friends, much the same way it does for Charlie.) I just wanted to give her a huge hug. Watching her come out of her shell and make friends with Rose and her gang and open herself up to them filled me with an odd sense of pride for her (which is odd, considering she's a fictional character.) Similarly, watching her stand up to her father and confronting the effect the death of her mother has had on their relationship made me want to fist-pump quite a bit. And of course the ending! Ahh, I was so happy for Charlie.
Rose on the other hand took a little while to warm up to. Her reasons for wanting to befriend Charlie are less than selfless and her attitude towards her parents was frustrating. BUT that's what teenagers do; they give their parents a hard time and rebel, etc. And Rose has a decent reason to be so angry with them. Watching her go from trying to be Charlie's friend for her selfish reasons to ACTUALLY liking Charlie was touching though. I got the warm and fuzzies when they had their heart-to-heart conversations. I also liked that even though she was a girl who was best friends with two boys, she's never like: "I'm only friends with boys because I can't relate to girls because I'm a special snowflake!" etc.
Dave and Luke were great characters as well that were perfect complements to the female leads. Luke is a bit of a bad news, but you could really tell that him and Rose loved each other. I mean, they GREW up together. Their relationship felt incredibly organic and I loved that there was no need for them to be all lovey-dovey to get that feeling across. And of course, that leaves Dave and Charlie so there's obviously going to be some romancing going on there. It was the slow-burning kind, which was fine by me. There's never any doubt that they're going to end up together but that didn't diminish the joy of watching them make those first steps. I think what I appreciated the most though was that these boys had personalities. They were NOT cardboard cutouts of the idealized Perfect Boy who were there solely for the purpose of mitigating romance and/or drama.
I also want to make note of Crowley's writing. This really doesn't read like a debut novel; it has an air of, I don't even know, maturity I guess? The writing is very (and I hate saying this because this is how people ALWAYS describe writing) lyrical, which is very fitting with Charlie's character and her obsession with music. It never reads like purple-prose either, which is a fine line to walk on, but Crowley manages it like a pro.Final Judgment:
This is a beautiful, quiet little novel that I absolutely loved. The two leads, Charlie and Rose, are very likable but equally realistic in how flawed they are and how much growth they both experience over the course of the novel. I feel the story was mostly Charlie's, but Rose was just as compelling even if she took a little longer to grow on me than Charlie did. There is romance, but it's very well handled with male characters who are NOT paper cutouts of perfect boys who are present for the sole purpose of giving the female character someone to fall in love with. It was just an overall awesome read, and one I highly recommend (especially if you're a fan of contemporary YA).