Book Review: This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin
Ramona fell for Sam the moment she met him. It was like she had known him forever. He’s one of the few constants in her life, and their friendship is just too important to risk for a kiss. Though she really wants to kiss him…
Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way-she’s too quirky and cool for someone like him. Still, they complement each other perfectly, both as best friends and as a band.
Then they meet Tom. Tom makes music too, and he’s the band’s missing piece. The three quickly become inseparable. Except Ramona’s falling in love with Tom. But she hasn’t fallen out of love with Sam either. How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?
Let’s put this right here in the front, just in case you plan to skim this review: THIS BOOK FEATURES AN ASEXUAL MAIN CHARACTER WHO TALKS A LOT ABOUT BEING ASEXUAL.
We’ll get back to that later.
I burned through this book in about 90 minutes. It’s on the short side and a quick read. The three main characters, Sam, Tom, and Ramona, take turns narrating. Unlike MANY books with alternate narration, their voices are distinctive and it eventually becomes VERY important to be able to see the story from each of their points of view. Sam and Ramona go to a prep school where they don’t really fit in (nor would they want to). They stick together and spend a lot of time practicing with their band (which is just the two of them), April and the Rain. They intend to go to Artibus College of Music and Arts together after graduation. At their audition, they meet Tom, a senior from another area school. Ramona instantly decides that he should be in their band. Tom’s a little overwhelmed by Ramona’s nonstop enthusiasm, but he feels drawn to Ramona and Sam, so joins their band. They changed their name to Vandalized by Glitter and make lovely, weird music together.
SKIP RIGHT OVER THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS, OKAY?
Ramona has been in love with Sam basically since the second they met. She doesn’t see any signs that he could maybe feel the same way, and she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, so she keeps this fact to herself. The thing is, Sam is desperately in love with Ramona, too, and figures the same thing—he’d know by now if she reciprocated those feelings. As an adult, I read this and think, ack! Just tell each other how you feel. But the teenage part of me that lives just under the surface still remembers EXACTLY how they feel and what they’re going through. Enter Tom. Ramona gets a big ol’ crush on him right away. They start to date (seriously, more on this below). She realizes she truly loves both and wants to be with both. Sam and Tom both come to these kinds of revelations too—why can’t they all be together? It’s far more complicated than those two quick sentences, of course, but you can go read all about it yourself. My point is, yes, this is a story with a love triangle, but it’s about a triangle that chooses to stay a triangle.
YOU CAN COME BACK NOW—NO MORE SPOILERS.
Ramona’s crush on Tom is instant, and he eventually realizes he’s into her as well. Tom recounts (to the reader) what went on in his last relationship with a girl named Sara. Sara talked to him about how he doesn’t want to have sex with her, how he seems bored kissing her and never tries anything else. She wonders if he’s gay. “I’m not gay,” Tom tells her. “I just don’t feel that way about anybody.” He tells her he doesn’t care about sex. Sara doesn’t believe him. She doesn’t think this is possible. So he’s a little hesitant to get involved with Ramona, given what happened before. They get together, and Tom is really into Ramona romantically but not sexually. They kiss and it’s just meh to Tom. YOU GUYS, there is so much about being asexual in this book. Tom really lets us into his brain. He tells the reader all of the things and people he loves and that he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on anything by not having sexual desires. He knows nothing is WRONG with him, but he still grapples with this a little, thinking maybe he should try harder to be into making out etc with Ramona. Eventually, he tells Ramona he’s asexual. And lots of stuff ensues after this (I’m really trying hard to not tell you the whole plot here. I’m not doing a great job of that, am I?), all of it good and positive and loving and accepting.
Other things about this book: Sam lives in the rich area of St. Louis. Tom lives in Ferguson. Their families are all different—Ramona’s mom is dead, Sam’s dad took off, and Tom’s parents are older. All three main characters are super duper giant music nerds. Tom is into cool public art projects, like Glitter in Odd Places. They all have secrets. We get to see tiny bits of their home lives and their school lives in relation to other students. The book is funny, too. Sam tells us about Ramona sleeping in the car: “Her mouth was hanging open, and she was frowning like she was dreaming of something that pisses her off, like dubstep.”
This book was a total joy to read. Initially I found Ramona kind of insufferable, but her constant enthusiasm grew on me. I loved how into music they were, I loved their relationships with one another, and I loved getting to see the story through all of their eyes. Nowlin really captured what to me is a distinctly teenage feeling of being instantly completely obsessed with someone, finding everything they do fascinating, and then being confused on what to do next. This book should be in all collections. It’s not often we see an asexual character in YA or see romantic relationships handled the way they are here. A wonderful, quick, unique read.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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