Friday 3 February 2023

Grace Notes

Grace Notes by Karen Comer (Lothian Children’s Books) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9780734421722

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

If you thought the market was saturated with pandemic experiences and nothing new could be written in a fresh voice with a fresh perspective – think again.

In Grace Notes, Karen Comer explores the inner lives of adolescents during the Melbourne lockdowns, through the alternating perspectives of two teenagers, Grace, and Crux.

Grace lives for her music. A talented violinist, she also has a dominating mother who thinks music is not a career. Crux loves art – street art, to be precise. His dad allows him to practise his craft in their garage, but he’s forbidden to paint in public. Two very separate lives are brought together by circumstance and pandemic lockdown restrictions.

As often happens when children are banned from doing something they love, both Grace and Crux secretly defy their parents and sneak out to do what they love in the public arena. Grace agrees to perform in a pub, but it is her solo playing afterwards in a deserted tram outside her grandmother’s nursing home window that Crux witnesses.

Immediately captivated and inspired, Crux uses Grace as his subject when he’s invited by fellow street artists to paint a section of a commissioned wall. Grace later sees herself on the wall and is determined to find the artist behind it.

Grace Notes is a masterful exploration of two teens who are determined to make their own way in the most difficult of situations, residents in the world’s most locked down city. Karen Comer touches on many elements of the pandemic, including isolation, family, death, domestic violence, and mental health in the most sensitive and articulate way that is sure to allow the reader to make easy connections throughout the story.

This verse novel is beautifully written and hard to put down. There were sections I had to go back and read again for their simplicity but their depth of meaning. It’s the type of story you’ll be able to read over and over, each time noticing something new you didn’t previously see. Grace Notes is perfect for readers 12 years and older, in the Young Adult market.   

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