Editor’s Review: The Songs We Remember (The Songs in Our Hearts #2) by Chantal Gadoury

*Full disclosure: I was the editor of this novel for 48fourteen Publishing.

The Songs We Remember is the heart-rending yet lovely sequel to The Songs in Our Hearts by Chantal Gadoury. In the next installment of this contemporary YA love story, we return to our lovably conscientious heroine, Charlie, and her now-boyfriend, the charmingly laid-back Micah. In many ways, though opposites, Charlie and Micah are an ordinary high school couple. They navigate the everyday pressures and decisions of teens who date, like whether to be intimate or stay chaste, when to say “I love you,” and how to act as an item around friends and family. In the same way that the first book celebrates and evokes autumn, the sequel brings the winter and holiday season to life, and all the romantic trappings that go along with it.

But then unexpected tragedy hits. Blindsided by loss, Charlie withdraws – from everyone and everything. Though Micah tries, not even the boy she loves and the music they shared can mend her grief-shattered heart. These parts of the book had me blubbering like an infant (you will need a box of tissues. But it will be worth it). And yet, slowly but surely, loyal and devoted Micah and their friends gently coax Charlie out of her mourning and into a sobering but new normal. It isn’t easy, and nothing will ever be the same for Charlie again. But with time and patience, Charlie and Micah will learn that the music – even if just the memory of it – plays on.

I unequivocally adored this book. It is currently my favorite YA contemporary romance. Gadoury’s stunning strength and growth as a writer has been among the most beautiful and inspiring things to witness in my career. She writes authentically with grace and poignancy, as well as delightful humor and affection that make her characters pop right off the pages. Even when the book is sad, it is also full of hope and laughter. Gadoury is one of those YA authors that reminds you of the goodness and light that’s still out there in the world, and who’ll make you laugh and cry simultaneously. I recommend this duet to fans of YA contemporary romances like Anna and the French Kiss, What Happened to Goodbye, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and The Fault in Our Stars.

Editor’s Review: The Songs in Our Hearts by Chantal Gadoury

“Do… Do you ever worry what people are saying about you?” I asked.
“Do I look like the type that worries about that?”
“I’ve come to know you can’t judge an album by its cover.”
– Charlie and Micah, The Songs in Our Hearts 

Disclaimer: I was the editor of this novel for 48fourteen Publishing.

Small towns. High school romance. Movie-making. Class projects. New crushes. Lifelike characters. Classic literature. And music – lots and lots of music. These are just some of the notes that make The Songs in Our Hearts (48fourteen, 2017) by Chantal Gadoury a memorable and heartfelt tune.

The story is about Charlie, a studious and introverted high school girl who learns how to “live a little” when she meets a boy named Micah. Though Micah’s a slacker-type and hangs with a bit of a rough crowd, Charlie senses there’s more to him, just as he senses there’s more to her. Through music, the two teens form a bond, reminiscent of YA titles such as Just Listen by Sarah Dessen or Levithan and Cohn’s Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

What really drives Charlie’s narrative is the emotion behind it. The author is unafraid to deliver a vulnerable protagonist who is burdened by her own insecurities. Carefree Micah presents the perfect balance to Charlie, helping her to recognize that the only thing standing in her way is herself. Gadoury writes from the heart, with an undertone of wistfulness, almost melancholy, that is sure to evoke the reader’s own adolescent memories.

Some side details I really enjoy about the final product of this book are the chapter headers – they’re little pictures of cassette tapes, bringing to mind the “mixed tape” courtships of the eighties, and each chapter is not a number, but the name of an actual song and its artist, which serves as a soundtrack for that chapter. Stylistic details, such as the different fonts used for screenplays, text messages, and when characters write each other notes also add to the reading experience. I recommend this book to readers of contemporary YA romance, realistic teen fiction, and music lovers.

Book Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen is the charming story of high school senior, Mclean. Mclean’s life was her family, her family’s restaurant, and basketball… until their restaurant went under. Then, her mother cheated on her father with his favorite basketball team’s coach, and got pregnant. With twins. Needless to say, her parents suffered a bitter divorce.

Disgusted with her mother– who now has the audacity to act as if nothing’s the matter, and even fight for custody of Mclean– Mclean chooses to follow her dad and his new restaurant consulting job. But Gus Sweet’s new job requires constant moving, every several months. No problem; Mclean takes it as an opportunity to totally reinvent herself in all her new towns and schools. But now in Lakeview, her attempts at creating another alter-ego are thwarted.

Mclean tries to avoid establishing attachments, because she knows at anytime her father’s job may relocate them. But somehow, new friends are finding her: from Opal, the tattooed, retro-punk manager of Gus’s new restaurant; to Heather and Riley, the cool girls, yet something of misfits themselves; to Deb, the type-A personality “spaz,” who also happens to have a good heart and a surprising interest in metal music. And then, of course, there’s Dave, the long-haired boy genius who lives next-door. Despite her efforts to be standoffish, Mclean can’t help but begin to fall in love with Lakeview, her classmates at Jackson High, and the colorful staff at her father’s latest restaurant. But causing turbulence behind the scenes is Mclean’s mother. Guilt-ridden on her father’s behalf, but wanting to avoid another custody battle, Mclean endures awkward dinners and basketball games with her new step-dad and toddler-age half-siblings, and a mother whom she hardly recognizes anymore.

I loved reading about Mclean’s friends and their own stories. I also enjoyed the scenes with the restaurant staff. Even Mclean’s mother, whom you can’t help but both pity and hate, is an interesting and sympathetic character. Mclean’s lovable, handsome workaholic father is someone I missed as soon as the book ended. But the true heart of the story are Mclean’s friends – in particular, her budding relationship with the kind and mysterious Dave. This novel had heart and soul, and I would recommend it.

Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Leo is a sophomore trying to blend in at his Arizona high school when a strange new girl, who calls herself “Stargirl,” arrives. Slowly, she begins to change Leo in all her peculiarities. We follow the poignant coming-of-age tale through Leo’s eyes, as Stargirl is first perceived as being merely odd, then loved by all, to inevitably being loathed.

Stargirl is that girl who, eccentric though she may be, is ultimately respected for her integrity, being true to her oddities, no matter what others say about her… until she isn’t. It’s devastating when someone so unique as Stargirl  surrenders to the pressures of “being normal”. Watching Stargirl’s evolution is an unexpectedly moving experience of disillusionment, loss, and gentle triumph.

While Leo is the narrator, Stargirl is the true star (no pun intended) of this novel for young adults. This book touched and haunted me in a deep way that is not easy to describe. My only advice is to read it. Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl is both an unforgettable character and memorable book.