________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 39. . . .June 10, 2016


Another Miserable Love Song. (Orca Soundings).

Brooke Carter.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
127 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1312-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1313-7 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1314-4 (epub).

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.

Review by Penta Ledger.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


One morning I could barely stand the smell of all of the clothes I picked up, so I raided my dad’s closet. He had a faded purple Hendrix shirt that I loved. As I reached for it, a note fluttered down from the top shelf like a yellow, stiff-winged butterfly. As always, when I found echoes from my dad, my heart leaped with excitement. On the paper was a drawing of a star….

Just then I heard Jamie pull up outside and lay on the horn. I ignored her. My fingers trembled around the rim of the tin. I almost didn't dare open it, but I had to. Carefully I flipped up the lid. Inside were a lot of yellowed envelopes and slips of paper. I took the first one off the top. It was a piece of cereal box, and it had three words written on it in shaky script: I LOVE YOU

That’s all it said. I knew it was from my dad to me and that he must have written it during his final days at home I felt tears starting and hastily brushed them away when I hear Jamie come up to the door.

“Hey, Kallie,” she called. “You better not be asleep.” She opened the door into the little room and saw me sitting there crying, with the tin in my lap.

“Echoes?” she asked.

I nodded and sniffled a reply. “Mmm-hmm.”

Over breakfast Jamie was unusually quiet. There was something odd about her demeanor, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought maybe she was nervous about the tour. We had all been working so hard, and she’d been planning the logistics with military precision. I had been worried she was getting obsessed.

“Kallie,” she said after a while. “I have something to tell you.”

The way she spoke sent chills up my spine….

“What is it, Jamie” I asked.

“I’m … I’m transitioning,” she said and looked down at her hands.

At first I didn’t know what to say, like my brain didn’t compute, and then I understood. Jamie, my Jamie, was going to be male. And when I understood that, it seemed like the most natural thing in the entire world.


It’s Kallie (Kalliope) Echo’s eighteenth birthday, and she should be watching The Outsiders with her dad, just like she has every other birthday – but now she has to watch it alone. After her dad’s long battle with cancer, Kallie is only left with secretly placed notes that they shared and called ‘echoes’. With her dad gone, her ‘deadbeat’ mother not on the scene, and facing homelessness, Kallie is inspired by her father’s dream of becoming a rock star and accepts a position as the lead singer in her friend, Jamie’s, punk rock band.

     Kallie is a big hit as the singer for “Misery Girl” and is happy to be working with her best friends. In a late night conversation with Jamie, Kallie is surprised to learn that Jamie is transgender and is undergoing therapy to become male. Of course, Kallie is supportive and wants her friend to be happy, but what she doesn’t know is that Jamie is in love with her and always has been. When Kallie finds this out, she realizes the feelings are mutual and their relationship flourishes.

     The band is becoming more popular, and they are approached by a manager and his partner who want to record them in studio. This is the break “Misery Girl” needs, and everyone is excited to record their first tracks. It doesn’t take long, however, for things to go wrong as Kallie overhears one of the managers, Mike, talking about finding new musicians to accompany Kallie since the world might not be ready for “someone like Jamie.” Furious, Kallie throws a flask at Mike, hits him in the head and runs outside to share what she heard with her band mates. Later, the main manager, Johnny, calls and assures the band that Mike has been fired and that he still wants to record with them.

     With the new recordings, “Misery Girl” is booked to play three gigs at a nearby venue. Everyone is excited until they hear about death threats being posted on their social media sites. Johnny convinces them to do the show and brings in additional security just in case. The show is a success, and, as things are winding down, Kallie’s bodyguard steps out just long enough for Kallie to hear a knock at the door – Mike! With a knife in his hand, Mike threatens Kallie and is about to hurt her but is surprised by Jamie. In his frenzy, Mike wields around and stabs Jamie but is then restrained by the returning bodyguard. They call 9-1-1, but it will be too late for Jamie as he takes his last breath in Kallie’s arms.

     Carter’s novel is a quick paced read that packs a lot of action into its 127-pages. Though some of the plot line seems forced, the novel is able to knit together weighty themes including transgender issues, dealing with death, finding love and substance abuse. Specifically, Carter’s presentation of transgender issues and how someone might experience them in real life are believable and may help readers understand these realities more deeply. Further, the novel provides an interesting glimpse into the music production industry that could be of interest to teenage readers who are interested in being in a band.

     The several references to The Outsiders provides a framework for this novel. The deep themes of The Outsiders, including friendship and coming-of-age, are transferred to Carter’s novel successfully and enhance the overall meaning of the story.

     The ending of this novel is frustrating. After all that Kallie and Jamie go through to build their relationship, the too quick and final ending does not provide the catharsis needed to balance out the story’s trauma. A teenage reader may not appreciate having invested the time reading the novel, only to have so many unanswered questions at the end. The unexpected ending feels contrived but does force the reader to connect emotionally with Kallie and the many situations that a person can face. A rewritten ending and a sequel to this novel would be welcomed.


Penta Ledger is a teacher-librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.

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

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