Friday 17 August 2018

A Song Only I Can Hear

A Song Only I Can Hear by Barry Jonsberg (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760630836

Reviewed by Khloe Mills

There is a lot to admire and like about A Song Only I Can Hear. The first thing that appealed to me was the cleverness of Barry Jonsberg’s writing. The story is about 13-year-old Rob Fitzgerald, who for the most part seems similar in tone to Adrian Mole. His witty observations certainly are on par with those of Adrian. Here’s Rob on the first page talking about his father: ‘His head is bald, and he has more chins than standard. I sometimes get the urge to put my fingers up his nostrils, such is the resemblance to a bowling ball, although I have resisted this, for obvious reasons’.

I also liked the short punchy chapters which make this ideal for the target audience of younger children. Reluctant readers of any age will also be a fan. The 275 pages aren’t so daunting to tackle when a reader can just nibble a small and tasty piece and read at their own pace.

Very soon into the book Rob falls in love with the new girl at school, Destry Camberwick. Alas, he has some steep hurdles to overcome if he is ever going to have his love reciprocated. To quote from the back cover blurb: He’s a super-shy kid who is prone to panic attacks that include vomiting, difficulty breathing and genuine terror that can last all day.
With some astute life coaching from his wise-cracking and very funny Pop, Rob embarks on a series of challenges that not only make Destry notice him, but which also help him believe in himself.

There is a major twist that explains a lot of things in the book that were hinted at but were not immediately clear. It would be giving away too much of the plot to say more and it would be a disservice to Jonsberg who has crafted the story so that the twist comes near the end.

My only negative comment is that after a while the humour seemed a little artificial. I felt that I was reading Barry Jonsberg’s lines – an award-winning writer at the top of his game - not the genuine lines of a 13-year boy. However, this is a minor issue that may not be a problem for other readers. Even if it is, I don’t think it will stop anyone from enjoying this book.

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