I picked up Harmonic Feedback based on the strength of Trisha's review over at The YA YA YAs. This is not an unusual thing for me to do, as you probably know. Trisha has impeccable taste and a knack for tempting me with her reviews in such a way that what was non-committal longing suddenly turns into I must have it now! Trisha asked why more people aren't talking about this book and called it "a noteworthy debut." After reading it, I frankly have to agree with her. It was hard to track down in the first place, which was frustrating, and I haven't talked to all that many people who've read it. Yet it's a lovely story of growth and grief and what it means to exist outside the box. I think it possesses wide appeal for young adult readers who appreciate sensitive and thoughtful characters engaged in the search for connection and meaning in their lives.
Drea and her mom are on their own and they have been for as long as Drea can remember. Her first sixteen years have been one long string of moves and men. Her mother can never seem to keep a job long enough for Drea to finish that year of school. And she goes through men like they're a dime a dozen. Eternally nonplussed, Drea really does have enough on her plate without having to deal with her mother's fickle behavior. Diagnosed with ADHD and a mild form of Asperger's syndrome, it's hard for Drea to relate to her peers. They continually act irrationally, in ways that make no sense to practical, methodical Drea. Her mother is forever explaining "normal" people's behavior to her in the hopes that she will catch on and not stick out like a sore thumb. But Drea's not interested in changing herself to fit an inexplicable mold and, when they're forced to move in with her rigid and disapproving grandmother, it becomes even more difficult to get through each day. Then next door neighbor Naomi barges in, with her purple hair and her lust for life, and a nice boy named Justin starts talking to her at school, and Drea begins to wonder if some of that "normal" life she's observed for so long might just be a little more interesting than she thought.
Harmonic Feedback was a pleasure from start to finish. I've been in a somewhat odd reading place lately, bouncing back and forth between new books I've been wanting to read and old favorites I seem to need to reread. But this one had me from page one. And most of that was Drea herself and her unvarnished way of looking at the world and at herself. She was so uncompromisingly herself and I just felt for her as she wound her way through the twisty maze that is high school and teenage friendships and relationships to someone whose brain works a little differently. She certainly made mistakes along the way, but none of them were due to a lack of intelligence or conscience. I always admired her. And like Naomi and Justin, I was drawn to her because she spoke her mind, she lived for music, and she was just plain good people. Her relationship with her mother is also sympathetic and compelling as they seem to butt heads so often, yet they clearly love each other very much. Drea tries for her mother, when she doesn't for anyone else. And her mother just wants her to be happy, even when she sometimes overprotects her in the wrong ways. I will also just go ahead and say that I loved everything that went down between Drea and Justin. Justin has got to be one of my favorite nice guys in YA fiction--and how often do I say that? I was caught up in the depth and texture of the two of them, in that wonderful tug and pull between two smart individuals who are very different, who have issues, but who are nevertheless drawn to each other. I did feel as if the end of the book trod a bit too far into the melodramatic, as though it was working a little too hard to make me as the reader really feel what happened, when I was doing just fine on my own. But that quibble aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Harmonic Feedback and look forward to Tara Kelly's next offering with much anticipation.
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