Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad - Kim Culbertson

Published: September 2010, Sourcebooks

Acquired: Sent for review by Sourcebooks

Pages: 240 pages, paperback

Summary (from Goodreads): After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen-year-old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own sound track through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth she uncovers about her father that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.

My review: I've always been interested in the link between music and writing. It's something I spent quite a lot of time looking into at university and it still fascinates me now. Some writers are so inspired by music that they simply couldn't write without it, others have to write in complete silence and find music distracting.

Kim Culbertson, author of Songs for a Teenage Nomad, is one of those writers who clearly loves music and is so inspired by it that songs have managed to wind their way into the very essence of this novel. Not that I'm complaining mind. I adore music and, thus, was extremely excited about this book.

I know a lot of people advise never naming songs or musicians in novels, as it can date a book but the choice of songs and artists in this novel definitely doesn't do this. We have Dylan, Phish and Sarah McLachlan all featured seamlessly alongside Everclear, Avril Lavigne and They Might be Giants. For me, the choice of music is great. All of the songs Culbertson chooses have that wonderful ability to transport the reader to a certain moment, a certain emotion, that really helps us live the story alongside Calle.

Songs for a Teenage Nomad is an interesting book, to say the least. There's the musical element for starters, then the story itself. Calle has been moved around from city to city every since she was born and her song journal is the only real constant in her life. She tries to avoid making friends in each new place she settles, knowing it won't be long before she and her mother are on the move again. However, with this latest move Calle can't help but be drawn in by a certain boy and that is where the excitement begins.

The only negatives here is that, while the story is strong and the characters well developed, the inclusion of so many songs feels a little gimmicky at times and does threaten to overshadow the rest of the book. I feel a lot of people picking up this book will be doing so because of the musical element, rather than feeling drawn in by the premise. I'm not 100% if this is a bad thing or not, as it does help the book to stand out but I do wonder if I'd have picked up this book, had it been the same story without the inclusion of the music.

First line: 'Inside my dreams sit a song, way back in the shadows.'

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

*Check back tomorrow for Kim Culberton's guest post about how she uses music in her writing*


  1. I have been eyeing this book for quite some time now. As an avid music junkie, I adore it when writers blend their love of music into writing, so I would definitely be interested in read this. I adore the book title and love the sound of this. Your review only makes me want to read this more.

  2. Thanks for your honesty. I'm still on the fence about this one :)


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