A Song Only I Can Hear

S. & S. Apr. 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534442528.
Gr 6 Up–Set in a small town in Australia, this novel centers on 13-year-old Rob Fitzgerald, an awkward, extremely literal, die-hard romantic. He is obsessed with Destry Camberwick, who has little to no direct contact with Rob. Rob’s journey of self-discovery is a long one. The narrative occasionally drags from Rob’s endless, cringeworthy inner dialogue. Other than his obsession, he doesn’t have much of a personality, but he’s very vulnerable and gets support from some quirky and enjoyable interactions with his best friend, Andrew, and with Rob’s grandfather. Both of these characters provide compelling details that drive the plot forward: how Rob’s grandfather deals with post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam; why Andrew’s tension with Rob makes sense by the end of the story. The chapters are brief and slightly jarring; just when readers may feel that the tale has too much filler, the ending delivers clarity, and the truth behind Rob and his insecurities. The supporting characters feel the impact, and ultimately, this is an amazing addition to books about the hardship of finding yourself and learning to live with disappointment in people you admire.
VERDICT Highly recommended for tweens and teens, but there are no barriers to using this with younger readers, too.

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