It’s always a tad painful to read a novel that fails even to elicit a negative response. A Little Wanting Song certainly wasn’t one of the best novels I’ve read recently, nor was it bad. Rather, it left me underwhelmed and uncertain, qualities that I can only hope will be lacking from Crowley’s highly anticipated Graffiti Moon later this year.
The cover description of A Little Wanting Song set some of my warning bells off, as it takes an exceptionally strong writer to create characters whose complexity outweighs the melodrama in most young adult stories centering on loss and grief. Tales told from alternating points of view usually work for me, yet Crowley fails to differentiate Rose and Charlie’s voices sufficiently to evince their divergent personalities. Even more troubling was the fact that Rose’s viewpoint seemed to predominate despite the plot being largely dependent on the events that occur in Charlie’s life. I was far more interested in the lives of secondary characters Luke and Dave than I was in either female protagonist, yet Crowley merely hints at the dynamics of their seemingly turbulent home lives before conveniently telling us that everything works out in the end. We are told characters have grown, and must take it on faith that Crowley is correct, because there is little evidence of such growth in the words that Crowley provides us.
While musically-inclined characters and narratives are a slight pet peeve of mine, Crowley thankfully manages to portray the significance of music to Charlie’s life without attempting to convey an inflated message proselytizing the all-encompassing importance of music-as-life (see Hannah Harrington’s Saving June, Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb, and Gayle Forman’s Where She Went for examples of this irritating trend). Still, for a novel that lacks the depth necessary to allow me to connect with its characters, inclusion of Charlie’s inane song lyrics every few chapters did little to progress the story and merely ate up valuable page time.
I’m still anticipating Graffiti Moon, but my excitement has been tempered somewhat by my lukewarm reception of this earlier effort.