The Piper’s Son

The Piper's Son by Melina MarchettaThe Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of pages: 336
My copy: US hardbound, ordered from Book Depository

The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.

Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca – but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son redefines what it means to go home again.

* * *

One of my favorite things to hear back during those high school graduation programs is the class prophecy. I think I heard my first class prophecy back in elementary, when our teacher read a prophecy of one batch for us. Then sometime during sophomore year in high school, I wrote an incomplete class prophecy on a whim, set about ten years later, one where I apparently lost contact with most of my high school friends and even crashed into my best friend’s car. And finally, during senior year, I was assigned to write our batch’s prophecy, which was kind of boring now that I remember it. Boring compared to the sort of morbid prophecy that the higher batch had before us, anyway.

But again, I love those things because it has that infinite feel to it. I can write practically anything about what our fortunes will be (and because it’s going to be read to everyone, I have to make sure all of us were successful, sort of). It had all those possibilities for all of us, giving all of us in the batch hope that we could all fulfill that prophecy that I had penned.

That’s what The Piper’s Son read like for me — a class prophecy. It’s been five years since Saving Francesca, and the little group that I have grown to love in that book has changed. Will is now an engineer in Singapore, and having a long-distance relationship with Frankie. Frankie’s parents are in Italy and she now works in a local pub with Justine. Siobhan is in England, Tara is in Timor, Jimmy is somewhere out there. And Tom. Tom Mackee is lost. Ever since his uncle died in a terrorist attack in London, Tom’s life had fallen apart. When he finally hit rock bottom, he finds himself living with his pregnant aunt Georgie, who’s also deep in her own grief. Tom is going to have to start picking his life back up again, but will the people he’s left behind be there to help him?

What can I say about The Piper’s Son that the other readers haven’t said yet? Once again, Marchetta shines in this book. This is one of the best spin-off novels I’ve read ever. Like I said, it reads like a class prophecy, so I was thrilled to read about what happened to my favorite group of fictional friends five years down the road. It wasn’t the same as my “we’re all so successful” prophecies though, because Tom is broken. And it’s with Tom that makes this book so heartbreakingly good. There were so many layers to him and his relationship with his family and friends. I think it was Aaron who once said that he had more personality than Will had in Saving Francesca, and it’s true. I liked that this book gave us a way to know him more than the smart-aleck seemingly bad guy character he had before.

To be honest, I had no idea where this book was going and a part of me keeps on wondering where. But I think the beauty of contemporary novels, especially that of Marchetta, is she makes even the most ordinary seem extraordinary. Tom’s days in the pub, his encoding work, his family, most especially his emails to his sister and Tara made this book so much more emotional than I expected. His aunt Georgie’s point of view also gave us a different perspective. It wasn’t opposing, but just different, and it gave a certain depth in the story that made us understand just how much they all lost when Joe Finch Mackee died in that explosion. Oh, but it’s not completely sad, though — there’s still humor, especially when the Tom and his friends banter, and even with their grudge on Tom’s abandonment, it’s clear that they all still care for one another. Oh, and the band scenes — they’re not really a serious, serious band like the ones who will know about fibracell reeds at wwbw, but I like that music brings them together. My favorite moments include the one with Lord of the Rings, Tom playing with Callum, the one with “I think we’re getting our Tom back”, and Tom telling Frankie to stop listening to the news. Oh, and of course, the reunion scene — I’ve been an inexplicable fool / A thousand times, yes. :)

I had to marinate on this book for a while before I decided on its final rating. It’s not exactly an easy read, especially with all the issues it tackled. Somehow, this made Saving Francesca seem like a sunshine-y happy book, even if it also tackled pretty serious issues. I guess it’s because Tom was dealing with harder ones, and being a guy, he handles it differently. But after a few days of thinking about it, I finally got to the point where the beauty of this novel has finally settled deep into my bones, and I am just in awe of how Marchetta can keep me thinking about her story and her characters long after I’ve finished reading. If that isn’t a sign of a great book, then I don’t know what is.

The Piper’s Son is not an easy book to read, but it’s one of those books that you’d want to read. Because a story such as this deserves to be read. It just wraps itself around your heart like that. If you’re off to read contemporary YA books, do yourself a favor and put Melina Marchetta high on your list. I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: [rating=5]

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – September

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Persnickety Snark


Want Books: Fury by Shirley Marr

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now.

I cannot remember where I first heard about this book I’m featuring this week, but I know I confused it one too many times with that other book with the same title and almost the same cover. Only, I knew it was the book’s blurb that got to me. I lost this book from my radar for a while until one of my Goodreads friends reviewed it. That’s when I understood why it was a bit hard to remember: not only is there another book with the same title, but there’s also another author with the same surname. Eeps. Anyway, my Goodreads friend sang praises to this novel, and that just really made me want this more.

Fury by Shirley MarrFury by Shirley Marr
Black Dog Books, Released May 1st 2010

Let me tell you my story.
Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.

Strap yourself in…

Eliza Boans has everything.
A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.

So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder?

How intriguing, right? This is Aussie YA fiction, and you know what they say about Aussie YA books.

Anyway, I checked Book Depository for this, but it’s currently unavailable, and I haven’t spotted a copy of this anywhere yet…so it may take some time before I get this. Unless someone would be nice enough to send me a copy. *bats eyelashes*

Oh well. I don’t know if that begging works, but I can still wait. I’m pretty sure I’ll stumble over this book sometime when I’m not expecting it. :D In the meantime, I’ll content myself with reading this short Fury reader sample.

Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon by Cath CrowleyGraffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia
Number of pages:  244
My copy: paperback borrowed from Chachic

“Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers.”

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

* * *

The good thing about having book-lovers as friends here in the Philippines is despite the lack of availability, when someone manages to acquire it, it’s easier to borrow instead of finding a way to buy it. That’s what my book friends and I are doing now, especially for hard to find/buy books such as Aussie YA books. :) Thanks so much to Chachic for letting her copy of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (and her other Aussie YA books) go around.

Graffiti Moon, US edition

Graffiti Moon, US edition (to be reased February 2012)

In Graffiti Moon we meet Lucy, who’s about to graduate high school. We find her rushing after she receives a message from her instructor, rushing to meet Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose paintings have touched Lucy’s heart and made her feel an instant connection. Then her paths cross with Ed, the last person she wants to see because of their unfortunate shared past — but he knows Shadow. And he can bring her to him. What follows is a long night full of heart-to-heart conversations, graffiti art viewing and a possible breaking-in and stealing. Lucy realizes that Ed isn’t so bad and their shared past may just be a misunderstanding…but if she finds out who Ed really is, will she still think the same?

People often compare Graffiti Moon with Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and it is an accurate comparison. What music is to Nick and Norah is art in this novel. I am not an artist, so it was kind of hard for me to imagine how Shadow’s graffiti pieces look (seriously, I can only imagine them as crudely drawn images because they’re from spray paint cans, but I’m pretty sure they all look better than what I can imagine). However, I liked that this book was relatable enough even without much art knowledge. I like it when a story makes use of a magical night for two people — magical in the sense that they end up spending it together and realize that their preconceived notions about each other were all wrong, or at least, inaccurate. I liked that there was a lot of conversations done in this book that made the characters get to know each other, and it wasn’t just love/crush at first sight and then followed by intimacy the next second.

Personally, I didn’t like Lucy at first. I found her fascination of Shadow and her belief that she will fall in love with this person because of his art kind of annoying and unrealistic. Color me jaded, I guess. Or maybe just…eh, unromantic? Maybe it’s the teenage idealism of love that got to me. I ended up liking her after some time, though, especially after she had more conversations with Ed. Even if it was all in the span of a night, it was still filled with conversations and shared adventures, and not just eye-contact and an “amazing” kiss that would make them declare their love for each other “forever and ever”.

But as much as I liked Ed and Lucy in this book, my real favorites are Leo and Jazz, Ed’s and Lucy’s best friends. I guess it shows how much I am more of a sucker for words than for art, seeing that Leo is a poet. My favorite piece from all of his works in the book:


Your jokes kind of make me laugh
And your hair is faintly close to being cute
Your smile isn’t half bad, either
You know, I almost, almost kind of like you

The dress you’re wearing is short and sweet
And your boots are kind of cool
You’re not, not turning me on
You know I almost, almost kind of like you

The way you dance definitely isn’t stupid
I could maybe get used to the way you move
I’m not saying I’ve made up my mind
But you know, I almost, almost kind of like you (p 164-165)

I swear, Leo and Jazz are practically begging for a spin-off. Can I request for one, please?

Graffiti Moon will be released in the US by February 2012, but an e-galley of the book is available in NetGalley, so if you can’t wait, sign up and get it! I still like the Australian cover of the book, though. And speaking of covers, look what I spotted in Madrid while I was bookstore hopping:

Graffiti Moon in Spanish :)

Graffiti Moon in Spanish :)

It took me a while to translate the book title, and if I hadn’t seen the insides with Lucy/Ed/Poet headings, I wouldn’t have recognized it. :)

Graffiti Moon is charming. It’s one of those books that would leave the reader smiling, not because of a neatly-wrapped ending, but because of an ending full of possibilities. And possibilities are always good, right? :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Irresistible Reads
Persnickety Snark

In My Mailbox (17): Goodreads Meet-Up

A day and a year ago, I met some of my now favorite people, the Filipino Group from Goodreads. Back then, we were just 12 in the meet-up:

gr-filipinosYesterday was the 5th meet-up of the group, and it was…well, monumental. I mean, compare the number last year to this year (thanks to Book Elf for the photo):

Class picture? :P

It was loads of fun, as usual, and like all other meet-ups, we were all crazy talking to each other and grabbing books everywhere. I was a zombie that day because I just came from night shift, but that didn’t mean it was less fun. I was just a bit lot loopy while it was all happening. :P We ended up staying until closing time in SM Megamall, and then some more walking after that before I finally crashed at my brother’s place to sleep and prepare for the 10k race the next day. See why I’m so sleepy now? :D

But I digress. As with all Goodreads meet-ups I’ve been to, there is always a rainshower of books. I don’t have a picture of the stash, but it was huge, to the point that some people don’t want to take the remaining ones anymore. And to those who got so many were all complaining of heavy baggage. :P

Anyway, I really liked my book stash yesterday. All of them were books that I really wanted to read:

  • What is Goodbye by Nikki Grimes – thanks Kuya Doni!
  • Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell – I don’t know who put this in the book pile, but thank you! I was already eying this one during the interview with the guests, and when our team won in the literary quiz, this was the first book I grabbed. :D
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – I don’t know who put this in the pile either, but I didn’t see it. Monique saw it, though, and she was kind enough to grab it for me. :)
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock – thanks again to Monique! :) She saw this in Book Sale just as I put it on my wish list and got it for me.
  • The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty – from Aaron. He was putting this up for swap, I think? I used my “charms” to get it from him instead. LOL.
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – borrowed from Chachic. I cannot wait to read this. :)
  • Pink by Lili Wilkinson – borrowed from Celina. Yay Aussie YA. :)

I also finally got to meet Mina V. Esguerra in person, as well as Samantha Sotto, who will launch her debut, Before Ever After, this week. I got my copy of My Imaginary Ex signed by Mina (someone has a picture of us somewhere, so I’ll get that when they post it :D), and while I wasn’t able to get a book signed by Samantha, I’m definitely picking it up soon. :)

Oh, I also got some ebooks this week, and again, they’re books I am really excited about:

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca LeeSaving June by Hannah Harrington

  • Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
  • Saving June by Hannah Harrington

I still badly need sleep now, but this weekend is definitely one for the books — literally, and figuratively. ;)

I hope you all had an awesome weekend! Have a great week everybody! :)

Looking for Alibrandi

Looking for AlibrandiLooking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 320
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the no nonsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.

Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.

* * *

After falling in love with Saving Francesca and Jellicoe Road, I was determined to read the rest of what Melina Marchetta has to offer. So the moment Easter rolled around, I bought myself a copy of her first novel, Looking for Alibrandi. I wasn’t sure what to expect, except maybe the same Australian contemporary YA charm?

Josephine Alibrandi, or Josie, is the daughter of Christina Alibrandi, a single mother whose conception of her daughter got her embarrassed among the Italian community in Sydney. Josie is a headstrong young girl with a smart mouth who loves her mother and lives to annoy her grandmother, Katia Alibrandi. Josie is 17, a few months away from turning 18 and her “emancipation”. On her final year in St. Martha’s, she finds herself suddenly surrounded by men. First is the charming John Barton, wealthy, straight-A debater, who Josie has had a crush on for the longest time, but is also pursued by her nemesis, “Poison” Ivy. And then there’s Jacob Coote, Cook High school captain — he’s rough and wild, the typical bad boy, but he knows how to charm Josie in his own way. And finally, there’s Michael Andretti — Josie doesn’t like him the same way as she does John and Jacob, but his role as her biological father is something she cannot ignore.

Looking for Alibrandi is slightly lighter than Marchetta’s other works, and truth be told, I was waiting for a big punch in the gut while reading this one, just like what the two other books I read from her had. Josie’s personality is strong and loud, sometimes too strong that it makes me wonder if that’s how a 17 year old should act. And then I remember: wasn’t I also like that when I was 17? As always, Marchetta’s characters are all fleshed out, and I really liked the stories that Nonna Katia tells Josie. I had the same relationship with my grandmother, too, and like Josie, I’ve also answered back at her a little too many times when she was still alive. :( But I learned to appreciate her and see her as a strong woman and mother who only wants the best for her children and grandchildren, too. And speaking of family, I liked the development of Josie and her relationship with Michael. The progression felt natural even if it wasn’t in the most normal circumstances. I liked that the author banked on Josie’s father’s youth for doing the things he did, and not make him as a character with a bad rep (like someone who has a gambling addiction).

Josie may come off as annoying at first, but she grows on you as the story goes on. I also find the cultural aspect very interesting, especially with how the author wrote about the friction between Australians and Italians. I honestly had a hard time believing that Italians would be a victim of racism, because their being European by default makes me look up to them. But maybe that’s really what happens when you’re immigrants or came from immigrants where you live — it’s hard to feel at home especially when other people insist otherwise.

I didn’t really like Jacob Coote, but that’s just me because I never really liked bad boys. I found Josie and Jacob’s fighting and arguing a bit over the top, but I rooted for Josie even in the midst of her confusion. I honestly preferred John for Josie, but that boy had his own problems that he deserves to many hugs! John was the “Marchetta punch” in this novel, and like the other readers, it kind of left me gasping in disbelief. Trust Marchetta to do this to her reader.

It’s no Saving Francesca or Jellicoe Road, and it’s not my favorite Marchetta, but Looking for Alibrandi is a very good read. :) It’s an entertaining contemporary YA novel about family and being true to one self. I really wouldn’t expect less from Melina Marchetta, really.

Now to hunt for the movie adaptation.

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes