Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Songbird by Angela Fristoe

Songbird by Angela Fristoe is a book that I am very conflicted about. With a beginning like this book has, it should have been Amazing! So why, now that I'm finished do I feel a little more meh? Let me 'xplain.

Songbird begins when Dani is 6 years old and she watches her alcoholic father shoot her 16 year old brother, Jace, in the park. Jace is her hero, her savior in a violent, abusive home. The first four pages of this book, FOUR PAGES, made me cry. Do you know what it takes to make someone cry within the first four pages?! Amazing skill, that's what.

By page five, I'm completely invested in this story, completely invested in Dani and completely hurting and rooting for her. But then... I sort of detached from the story. By the description of the book, I expected the story to focus on Dani coming to terms with the death of her brother, the imprisonment of her father and a mother turned alcoholic, and all the baggage that accompanies this. I also expected music to play a huge role in Dani's life, considering that the title of the book is Songbird.

But, this is not what I got. Dani spent years bouncing between foster homes before finally setting in with her current 'parents'. Here, in this new home, she finally has a sense of stability, she has a best friend she trusts completely, who she knows will never do anything to hurt her and will always protect her (much like long-dead Jace) and she is finally feeling okay. Dani is still insecure, which is natural. Everyone she's ever truly loved has either been taken from her, or chosen to leave her behind. She's worried that her foster parents won't want a relationship after she turns 18 and she's terrified that if she tells Reece, (the best friend) that she has loved him, been in love with him forever that it will change things and she will lose him as a friend.

With all that emotional pain, all that drama, do you know what the primary focus of the story was? Reece. Yup. Reece. I've made no secret of the fact that books that revolve almost completely around the romance are not really my thing. I don't read many, and when I do, I have to be in a very specific mood. So I was quite disappointed to realize with all that potential, all those possibilities, Fristoe decided to make Dani's biggest problem her friendship and potential relationship with Reece. And, I thought that Dani handled it horribly! Admittedly, Reece could have done much better as well, but I thought Dani was incredibly selfish throughout a vast majority of the novel. You'll know exactly what I mean when you read the book.

Another thing that really bothered me about this book was the addition of the threatening phone calls Dani begins to receive. (Not a real spoiler — it mentions this in the synopsis). The whole thing felt really contrived, really unlikely and simply a plot twist to further the Dani/Reece drama. The moment felt very 'Jump the Shark ' (Wikipedia knows!) and I kind of rolled my eyes a bit. Definitely a WTF moment.

I was also disappointed at the lack of music in the story. The title and synopsis make it sound like music plays a huge part in Dani's life. We are told it's important to her, but we are never really shown that. There were a few references to the notebooks Dani carried with her to include her song lyrics in and how important they were to her, as well as 2, maybe 3 instances where we read these lyrics and that's about it. No more mention of music, even though it's supposed to be something that defines her.

However, even with these things that disappointed me, my overall feelings about this book are positive. I genuinely enjoyed reading the book and learning about Dani. Interspersed throughout the story are a series of flashbacks, giving us more insight into Dani's past. We see what happens with her father before his capture by police, how her mother slips farther and farther into her addiction to cope with what life she has left, what happens in the foster home where she met Colin (which would add way to much to a review to get into.; p) and so much more. We learn so much about Dani and her relationships with others and how they formed through these flashbacks, and other than that amazingly powerful opening chapter, they were the highlight of the book for me.

The times when we were able to learn more about Dani and how she is learning to deal with the terrible hand life has dealt to her were the highlights of the story for me, and the reason why I say that overall, even with several things that I found to be bothersome, this is definitely a book I'm glad I read and it is one that I would recommend to others, although I would want to discuss it with them first.

*Disclaimer: Book received for a fair and honest review through the Teen Book Scene tours.