Series: All Our Pretty Songs
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on July 30, 2013
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The first book in an exciting YA trilogy, this is the story of two best friends on the verge of a terrifying divide when they begin to encounter a cast of strange and mythical characters.
Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.
And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.
“Until now, I’ve never loved anyone except Aurora. It’s more than his music, more than even the smell of his skin. More than the way his body is like a magnet calling all the iron in my blood. He’s a drug that’s hooked me on the very first trip. “
Do you remember the hard, black, book sized journals you had to keep in high-school if you were in photography or art class? The pages warped and stiff with the dried rubber cement used to paste pictures and collages; the contents swelling up with new entries, pushing their boundaries, and stretching the binding so that the covers no longer lay flat? That’s what All Our Pretty Songs reminded me of. Sarah McCarry’s writing is a piece of art. Her prose is dripping with poetic angst and juvenile passion. I felt like a live-wire, sentimental and electric with the memories and feelings of what it was like to be young and in love. This book sped up my heart beat and made me want to put on my darkest lipstick, tease my hair, and jump on my bed to an old Sex Pistols record. It made me want to lay on the floor and listen to Sunny Day Real Estate while thumbing through the incredibly conflicted poetry written in my high-school art journal about unrequited love, and friendships gone awry. This book took me back to the physical and euphoric sensations of worshiping at the sweaty-pit alters of my favorite bands; staring up with wide-eyes, swaying to the music and leaning on my friends. Sarah’s writing invokes all the senses. So much punch is packed into each sentence, that I could swear Sarah McCarry wrote this when she was 16. AOPS had that feeling of raw emotion, and devil-may-care energy that makes you feel immortal when you’re a teenager. This book is beautiful like a song. Lyrical and melodious by the emotional weight of it’s words.
It’s been a while since I read about Orpheus in my philosophy class in college, but I’ve seen the movie Black Orpheus more recently and it was only half-way through this book that I was able to make a connection. If you are familiar with the mythology of Orpheus, then I think you will appreciate the creative spin Sarah McCarry put on this story. That being said, the bones of this book felt completely original, as well as the words and thoughts used to flesh out this tale. The story is told entirely from our main character’s POV. Our narrator and her best friend, Aurora, were brought up together in a whirlwind of partying, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Both girls grew up without father’s from a very young age, and their mother’s used to be best friends until drugs and unfortunate circumstances lead to a falling out between them. Despite this, our narrator and Aurora stayed like sisters and faced a life of hard knocks together.
When Jack (our Orpheus) enters the story, new and startling feelings find their way to the surface of our narrator’s psyche. Feelings that make her suspicious of her best friend, and lead her to question her very existence and motivations. When strange dreams and strange men start to make appearances, our narrator is instantly leery. One of these strange men seems otherworldly and familiar, working his way into the lives of Jack and Aurora, leaving the narrator feeling suspicious and left out. Things have slowly began to change since Jack materialized into their lives, and a dark unwinding begins. From here, we follow the narrator on what feels like a really bad psychotropic trip.
If you are looking for a fast-moving plot and definite answers, you will not find that in AOPS. It reads more like an intimate biopic about one girl’s experiences and journey. What I enjoyed most about this book was the way the characters came off the pages, and the descriptions that were like brush strokes saturated in color, painting a vivid experience. This book is listed as the first of a trilogy on Goodreads, and I am curious to see how more of this story will unfold. Sarah McCarry made a fan out of me and I will gladly read anything else she writes.