This ‘booksical’: a book with an accompanying soundtrack, tells the story of how two young women whose voices are unheard, unite to embark on a musical career of great potential.
Teenager Meg McCarthy seems to be living the perfect life. The sister of a world-famous pop star, she is a social media influencer basking in the glory of her connections…at least that’s what you might think. The reality of her life is not so bright, as she lives in the shadow of her rockstar brother who rules the roost at home, with her parents pandering to his diva demands. He’s struggling with his second album and as tensions run high at home, Meg finds maintaining the McCarthy brand emotionally draining. Alana Howard provides a stark contrast to Caspar, Meg’s brother. An independent singer-songwriter working the clubs, she walks into Meg’s life just at the point when she needs a strong friend. But life is complicated. Online Meg, posing as the mysterious LostGirl, chats with Bandsnapper, a boy from school whom she likes. The pair share musical recommendations and discuss life, but will Meg ever reveal her identity to the boy she loves?
This debut novel co-authored by a K-Pop hit writer Becky Jerams and BAFTA-winning musician and singer-songwriter Ellie Wyatt, is a mix of teenage romance and commentary on the pretensions and falsities of the music industry. It explores themes of mental health, resilience and body positivity with Alana deliberately cast as a singer-songwriter who doesn’t fit the mould. The message is clear: it’s musical talent that matters at the end of the day and strong women have the power to lift others up. This is a storyline with obvious appeal to young women starting to navigate the adult world.
The Songs You’ve Never Heard is modern in its presentation; the narrative interspersed with tweets and online chats between the characters that carry the storyline forward. There are numerous references to current musical artists and a QR code in the front of the book gives access to the Spotify playlist of the songs the protagonists write within the novel (composed of course by the Jerams and Wyatt). In conclusion, this an entertaining mix of music and narrative that kept me engaged, even if the ending was a little predictable.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2023
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