Stephanie Kuehnert’s book, Ballads of Suburbia is our Book of the Month for November here at yaReads. As part of the promotion, Stephanie agreed to review a book that she read – and loved – recently. Enjoy!
Harmonic Feedback – Tara Kelly
When I was a teenager I looked desperately for books that reflected me in someway—not necessarily an exact mirror of my life and experiences, but I wanted to find characters that were having similar emotional experiences, that were feeling as confused by life as I was. There was just something about watching a character work through their life that helped me to work through my own problems. And it was a relief to see that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did. Unfortunately when I was in high school, it felt like those kinds of books were few and far between.
I wish I could go back in time and give my teenage self Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly.
The main character, Drea, in Harmonic Feedback has a hard time making friends for two reasons. One, her mom moves her around all the time. And two, according to her mom and the various shrinks she’s seen through the years, she’s not “normal.” She’s been labeled many things, the term “social awareness” is thrown around a lot, and ultimately she is diagnosed with Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder. As Drea puts it, “All I know is I make sense to me—it’s other people who seem complicated.” When I read that line, I thought that’s how I felt! And I found that thought reoccurring throughout my reading of the book. I don’t have Asperger’s, but when Drea points out certain things about human behavior—especially how people say one thing but mean another or say one thing and do another—I remembered so many occasions when I felt just as mystified as she does by the way we communicate. This book sums up so well why it’s so hard to fit in and be happy at high school.
I haven’t really seen any YA books that deal with Asperger’s so I imagine those readers who share Drea’s diagnosis will be thrilled to find someone with a similar experience in fiction, but I think everyone who reads this book will actually relate to Drea and find themselves realizing as I did that the way we think and behave especially in high school is so *not normal*!
The book begins when Drea moves to Bellingham, Washington. She meets Naomi, a girl from across the street who Drea’s grandmother warns her against because she’s trouble. Naomi has her fair share of issues with people at school, too, but she is an incredible singer and Drea, a musician and sound engineer likes making music with her—though Drea is a little bit uncertain about the other social experiences she has with Naomi, especially those centering around boys. However, there is a boy named Justin, who Naomi grows to like. A lot. In ways that she hasn’t experienced before and is struggling to understand. He’s a music fiend like Drea and has a past that he wants to keep secret the same way Drea is attempting to keep her psychological diagnosis and history a secret from her new friends.
I got an advanced copy of Harmonic Feedback and was excited to read it because I knew it was about music, a passion of mine. But I quickly realized how it was about so much more than music. I was so sucked into Drea’s story that I read the whole book in one night, something I am not often able to do, but with this book, I just dropped everything and read. I had to. If I put it down, I’d immediately find myself picking it up again, needing to know what happens next.
I was in tears at the end—again something that doesn’t happen often for me. And this is not to say the book was totally tragic. There was definitely tragedy, but so much learned by the characters that it left me feeling hopeful. And honestly I wasn’t just hopeful for Drea, I was hopeful for everyone who reads this book when it comes out in June 2010 because it will make you think about how you communicate. It will make you think before you keep a secret and hopefully it will encourage you to open up. And it will make you really reconsider what “normal” is or whether “normal” even exists at all.
I love books with well-drawn characters, people you can grow to understand whether you relate to their experience or not and Harmonic Feedback is filled with these. I adored Drea, Naomi, and Justin, but the side characters were so rich as well, especially Drea’s grandmother, who truly gives you a lot of insight into Drea in her own way.
I love books that make you think about the way you act and treat others, that open you to new perspectives and Harmonic Feedback is definitely that kind of book.
I’m not a reviewer and I never write book reviews because I don’t really know how to convey my joy when I read a book I really love, but this is one of those books. It’s going on the all-time favorite list and I recommend that everyone get their hands on it when it comes out.
Probably the official blurb I wrote for the book sums it up best:
“Harmonic Feedback is an impossible to put down, must-read book. Brilliantly written and filled with music, but even more so with emotional truth. Anyone who felt like an outsider will relate to Drea’s story, which is not just about Asperger’s, but finding love and true friendship and trying to hold on to it. We’ve all been there, but you get a fresh and honest take on teenage life through Drea’s eyes.”
Really, I can’t do it justice, so just do yourself a favor and pre-order it now!