________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 6. . . .October 10, 2014


Our Song.

Jordanna Fraiberg.
New York, NY: Razorbill (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2013.
338 pp., hardcover, $19.00.
ISBN 978-1-89514-268-9.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4



“I’m worried. You haven’t been acting like yourself since...”

“Since when, the accident? Why don’t you just come right out and say it. That you think I deliberately caused it, that you think I wanted to die.”

“I never said that.”

“But you did.” I thought about the knife rack and the medicine cabinet, the way she talked down to me, and how she didn’t look at me like she used to. “You should just stick to your orchids. They’re all you care about, anyway.”

“That’s not true.” Her voice was clipped and distant.

“Isn’t it? Why do you think Daddy’s never here? Why do you think he always comes home so late?”

I stopped short of telling her about the hotel receipt. A well of tears gathered and pushed against the back of my eyes. I hadn’t called my father “Daddy” in years. I suddenly wished he were here. Don’t cry, I told myself, biting down on my cheek. I winced. It was still tender from biting it earlier. My mother picked up the can and resumed watering the plants. The slight tremor in her hand caused the water to splatter onto her feet.

“And for the record,” I continued, “I can’t go back to the way things were before, so you might as well save your energy and stop trying to make me.”

Before she could respond, I booked it out of there, knocking the crate of baby orchids off the counter on my way. I stepped right on top of the scattered bunch of earth, flattening the fallen plants underfoot. She could spend the next ten years trying to bring them back to life for all I cared.

I raced through the kitchen, down the hall, toward the front door.


Olive Bell is a high school student in California who has recently been involved in a car accident which nearly killed her. In fact, she was clinically dead for a few moments and had to be revived. Now her life has completely fallen apart as people around her wonder what caused the accident and if it was actually a suicide attempt. Her perfect boyfriend, Derek, wants nothing more to do with her and is dating someone new. To keep others happy, Olive agrees to join a support group and finds the Near-Death Society for people who have lived through a similar experience. Here, she meets Nick. He is dark, handsome, mysterious, and speaks with a British accent. Immediately, the two are attracted to one another and so begin a romance filled with fun and adventure. The good times cannot last forever, however, and Olive learns that Nick has an important secret which he doesn’t share easily. This impacts Olive as well, and she gradually allows herself to re-think the night of her accident and what really happened. Both she and Nick understand that only by facing the truth can they move ahead in their lives.

     This novel centres on its main character, Olive, as she grows and matures. All she wants after her car accident is for her life to return to normal, and it takes some time for her to realize and accept that things will never be the same. Eventually, her self-esteem improves, and she is able to leave behind her old boyfriend and all that he represents and is able to take a risk with someone new. Early in the novel, Olive is self-absorbed, unpleasant to those around her, and not particularly likeable. All she can think about is how to get Derek back. She is a caricature of a “teenager in love”. Fortunately, her individualistic and independent friend Annie provides a role model for Olive. And once Olive meets Nick, things change considerably.

      Nick is the dark, handsome hero with a secret. He helps Olive come out of her shell and take risks she never imagined. Nick’s character adds mystery to the romance novel because readers realize quite early that he is unusual and keeps secrets. Where are his parents? Does he live alone in the large house he shows Olive? What sort of secret from his past continues to haunt him?

      Our Song depends much more on character than on plot. Essentially, it is a young adult romance with the tinge of mystery added by Nick and by the truth behind Olive’s car accident. Finding one’s own way and seeing life more clearly are two essential themes of the book. Fraiberg incorporates these by having Olive become interested in photography and spend time in the school darkroom processing photos. Olive and Nick also enter a labyrinth, again symbolic of finding one’s way through the maze of life.

      Freedom and the happiness it brings is another theme which the author includes by symbolically having Nick and Olive watch a flock of parrots take off from a church tower. Olive needs to gain her freedom from her past relationship and from the effects of the car accident if she is ever to move ahead.

      Olive often has snippets of songs in her head which change throughout the book. Near the end of the novel, the mystery of the song lyrics becomes clearer, and it’s as if Olive has finally found a partner who can relate to and ‘sing’ the same song.

      The setting of the novel is in Vista Valley, an area near Los Angeles, CA, but the story could easily be set almost anywhere. Olive’s mother has a major role in Vista Valley culture, helping organize fundraisers and other events. Her father belongs to the local golf club. Symbolically, Nick takes her away from this suburban setting by driving with Olive into various parts of the city of Los Angeles and into the desert areas nearby.

      The intended audience is certainly young adult females. The book’s cover is in shades of pink with a romantic photo of a boy and girl on the front. The scenario seems somewhat jaded: girl loses boyfriend, finds new boyfriend, finally becomes happy. Feminists may wonder if Olive can only find her way and be content when a new male has entered her life. That said, young women who want a pleasant read and a romantic interlude will enjoy Jordanna Fraiberg’s book a great deal.


Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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