Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley


A summer of friendship, romance, and songs in major chords. . . .

CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.

Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.


With alternating perspectives and strong voices, Crowley has created a world which will pull in a wide range of readers and offers at least one character they can identify with. The Australian settings makes this book an intriguing read for Americans, providing a new environment and a bit of culture while still maintaining a genuine teenage voice and a plot that occurs no matter the geographic location. Pulling in the lyrics to songs interspersed throughout, Little Wanting Song comes to the table with a lot to offer- and lives up to it.

Charlie is a highly sympathetic character, holding a strong love of music but an inability to put her thoughts, ideas and feelings into words apart from what comes out in her music. With few friends, she is certainly the girl a wide range of readers can relate to. Her desire for acceptance is clear but her fear is stronger and Crowley has done a perfect job portraying this aspect, maintaining the worries even after Charlie finds herself taking steps towards friendship with the same three teens who have ignored her every summer she's gone to visit her grandfather. Her journey with them is a very engaging one with the reader rooting for her- until the chapters switch to Rose's perspective.

Coming off as headstrong and uncaring, Rose is a well developed and rounded character that will tug at the reader's sympathies as well. From her interactions with her boyfriend to her home life, there is plenty of reasons and motivation given for the decisions she makes. For a reader siding with Charlie, she is a character to dislike and yet Crowley has cast her in a manner which will shatter that and leave the reader torn on which side to put their stock into. Rose changes as dramatically as Charlie does by the end of the novel, both girls enduring a string of experiences throughout one summer (Australian summer- think Christmas break time in the States) which will leave them changed. From finding one's voice to finding a way to really stand on her own feet, both girls come away different people in a way the reader will appreciate, remember, and relate to.

Most notably, this book is one for character development. The plot is enjoyable, moving at a steady pace but each new turn helps build both Rose and Charlie, as well as some of the minor characters. Crowley's attention to detail towards her characters' personality is clear and her ability to turn a rough, disliked character into someone sympathetic is a mark of her talent. Beautiful and meaningful lyrics help pull the overall story together, showing a very raw and vulnerable side of Charlie.

With very fluid writing and a unique mental voice for each girl, Little Wanting Song is certainly a book to pick up. This is a coming of age story that a wide range of ages can relate to, whether they are younger and enduring a similar journey or old enough to be past it yet appreciate it. The characters are the defining point of this novel, holding unique elements and strong desires that play through the pages as beautifully as the songs included.

Source: ARC received for review from publisher/author
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 8, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375860967
ISBN-13: 978-0375860966

Author's Website


  1. Awesome review, as always ;) I like the sound of this one, I hope I like it as much as you did!

  2. I'm liking the sound of this one too (hah, liking the sound. Music's in this book. hah. *ends horrible attempt at joke here*)

    I'm echoing Eleni: awesome review! A little wanting song sounds like something I'd really enjoy. :)