A winning story about a teenage voice student that hits all the right notes.

The Sound of Us

Set at a summer music camp in Indiana, this debut YA novel spins a tale of romance and self-discovery.

Seventeen-year-old Tullia Cicero “Kiki” Nichols arrives at Indianapolis’ Krause College for a six-week voice camp determined to be a different girl than she was back home in Chicago. There, she was a “sweatpants enthusiast and perpetual chorus girl” and a huge fan of the sci-fi series Project Earth and its soundtrack of 1990s girl power music. She’s got more friends on Twitter than in real life, especially now that her best pal, Beth, has dumped her out of jealousy that Kiki got into music camp and she didn’t. At camp, Kiki wears twee dresses selected by her older sister, Tina, and conceals her Project Earth fandom—and starts to make new friends, including queen bee soprano Brie, dreamboat Seth Banks, and khaki-clad cutie Jack, who’s attending golf camp at Krause but secretly loves drumming. Kiki, a soprano, knows her parents won’t pay for Krause unless she receives one of seven scholarships awarded at the end of camp—and her best bet at getting one is landing the renowned Greg Bertrand as her voice teacher. But when she’s assigned to his class, he tells her in confidence that she can improve her chances by informing on any classmates behaving inappropriately. For Bertrand, this includes singing pop songs, meaning Kiki’s beloved Lilith Fair music is forbidden. Does Kiki really want to study nothing but opera for four years? And who’s Bertrand’s mole in their midst? Hammerle captures the intoxicating potential of leaving home and trying on a new persona, even as Kiki gradually realizes that she isn’t being true to herself. The author also demonstrates an understanding of how teens use social media—every chapter begins with one of Kiki’s tweets, and her online friendships are as important to her as those offline. Finally, Hammerle resists the urge to couple her protagonist off predictably—when was the last time a YA heroine got to kiss two boys while having a crush on a third without it ending badly for everyone?

A winning story about a teenage voice student that hits all the right notes.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63375-503-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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