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BOOK REVIEW: You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

BOOK REVIEW: You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

Angus & Robertson
April 2015
Paperback, $17.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

3/10

9780732299507

Tim is a musician who’s repeating year 12:

‘You’re a recalcitrant, Tim. Always will be.’
‘I don’t know what that means,’ I say.
‘Why doesn’t that surprise me?’
‘I thought this was a geography class, not a pretentious words class.’

Mandy has finished school, is working a job she has no passion for, and is stuck in a bit of a rut:

Maybe there’s some great cultural movement going on now that I’m missing out on. Maybe one day people will look back on these times and wish they could be in my shoes. Maybe.

And they’re making their way through the world I spent my formative adult years from eighteen to twenty-three; the Sydney independent music scene.

And I was so ready to love it.

I was ready for nostalgia, for flashbacks to the venues that were like a second home during that time, for remembering the rush of going out to a different gig every night, the instant camaraderie, the talent.

This book failed to deliver in every single instance.

 

Mandy and Tim were both rather uncompelling, and suffered from a severe lack of personality, which made this reader really wonder what either of them saw in the other. Nothing happened throughout the book and the writing was flat and telly, making this far too easy to put down in favour of other stories.

At around the halfway mark, the story did start to pick up, with something from Tim’s past coming to light, but Mandy’s response to the news drove the story back down that hill:

You can’t ever help what you feel, and I know what I feel is small and stupid. Why me? I’m wondering. I feel let down, not by Tim, but by his father who dumped him in this situation and left him to hollow out from the inside. I feel resentful that it’s my boyfriend, or my friend, or whoever he is to me now, who is damaged in this way so he can never really be his own person, free of his father’s influence. I wish we could be one of those lucky, happy couples that I see around, girls from my school who weren’t any more clever, or giving, or pretty, or interesting than me or anyone else, but who met their perfect boyfriends and disappeared into some bubble of happiness that floats around the city and bounces past the likes of me.

Something awful happened to Tim, long before Mandy ever met him, yet she wonders why this is happening to her, and why she can’t have a boyfriend with less baggage. True love, right there.

 

On the technical side, the incredibly short chapters made it hard to really invest, or to have any idea of how much time was passing. Sometimes the story would flick back and forth between Tim and Mandy half a dozen times, with the narrative covering all of a couple of hours, and sometimes it seemed like days or weeks had passed between the two.

Besides this, there was nothing technically wrong with the format or with the writing, but it lacked any kind of emotion, and the story came across as very dull. This reader couldn’t help but wonder if the author based the actions and thoughts of these teenagers on his own experiences, or if he wrote the teenagers in a rather biased, exaggerated way, as he maybe had none to consult while writing this novel. The voice felt all wrong, and entirely uninteresting.

As far as love stories, coming of age stories, and stories about the Aussie music industry go, You’re The Kind of Girl I Write Songs About fell far short in this reviewer’s opinion.

BOOK REVIEW: You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

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