The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold

The Song from Somewhere Else

Information

Goodreads: The Song from Somewhere Else
Series: None
Source: Library
Published:  November 10, 2016

Official Summary

Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells – or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks.

And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help …

Review

The Song from Somewhere Else walks the line between fantasy and contemporary, following about a week in the life of protagonist Frank as she battles bullies, makes friends with the “weird kid” in class, and accidentally stumbles across a magical secret.  Being a fantasy fan, I was hoping for more of an emphasis on the mysterious, fantastic music that Frank hears coming from her new friend Nick’s house, but I think the book actually reads like more of a contemporary and could even qualify as an “issues book” based on how prominent the bullying aspect is.

The book reads as pretty realistic on the bullying front (though I say this as someone who was never bullied as a child in this specific sense of having gangs of mean boys seek me out to say nasty things to me or push me around).  Frank seems both weirdly drawn to and repulsed by her torturers, as she seems to know they hang out at a specific park, yet she rides her bike through said park each day.  (I imagine it’s possible there’s really no alternate route, but I doubt it.) She also struggles with her own “inner bully,” her stomach, which make running commentary throughout the book suggesting Frank run away or be a coward or whatever.  (Personally, I just found the “stomach as character” weird, but maybe other readers will think it’s creative.)  The most relateable element, however, may be Frank’s parents’ complete obliviousness to the fact she is being bullied and her own belief that telling them wouldn’t accomplish much anyway. You know how adults can brush bullying off.

Compared to all this, the mystery of the music from another world that Frank hears is a much less prominent feature of the book.  She’s obsessed with it, but there’s not much else to say.  Even though the climax of the book centers around this music and its alternate universe, I felt that things were a bit rushed here, and the book just really wanted to get back to discussing characters’ relationships rather than “ooh, a whole different world!”

Honestly, this seems like the kind of thing I’d expect many middle school teachers to put in their classroom because it’s an “issues book” and it’s “creative,” but it just generally wasn’t my thing. I didn’t particularly like the characters and was not as invested in the plot as I hoped.  It does border on just being weird for me, which I’m finding with a large number of middle grade books recently.

3 Stars Briana

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7 thoughts on “The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’m not sure how to think about children and bullying. My husband graduated high school in 1999. When he was a boy in school, other kids beat him up constantly. He actually told teachers and the police, but this was back when the advice was “try to ignore them” or “don’t provoke them” or “avoid them.” None of that worked, and he’s still quite jumpy if I accidentally surprise him

    I was never bullied as a kid, but I have been bullied by male colleagues as an adult. One case was handled swiftly by my employers. At a different place, I was told that the man bullying me was “not serious” and “quite funny” and that I shouldn’t let it bother me. I had do that thing where I wrote an email to the bully in a very serious tone and included comments about what my employer said about the guy just “teasing,” how I felt he wasn’t teasing, and that I wanted the behavior to stop immediately–and I CCd that same unhelpful employer in the email. The behavior finally stopped after the guy said he thought I was rude and laughed it off.

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    • Briana says:

      My only experience with bullying in middle school was one weird day when the teacher sent the “new kid” out into the hall and then announced to the class that he had reported that we were being mean and unwelcoming to him and we all needed to stop. Personally, I’d thought everyone was being quite nice to him and had no idea what she was talking about (though I guess someone COULD have been bullying him that I was just unaware of). Even at the time this struck me as a stupid way of handling the situation. The teacher singled this kid out, basically told a bunch of middle schoolers he had tattled on them, and then tsked tsked us and just told us to be nicer in general. I mean, if someone WERE bullying him, the teacher failed to recognize who specifically it was and had no way of following up on whether they had actually stopped.

      I’ve read some Internet threads on bullying, and the difficulty seems to be that no one really know how to make it stop, unless you have a way of physically separating the bully from the victim, like by moving them to another class. A lot of people who say they reported bullying agreed that the adults did nothing or handled it badly, and frequently the bullying got worse because the bully was resentful they had been told on. I think stopping bullying really needs to come with concrete ways to protect the victim from further interaction with the person harassing them. It’s ridiculous that even with adults in a workplace people don’t take this kind of behavior seriously! I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Thank you for your kind words. What’s strange is as you described the teaching talking to the class, I was thinking, “How nice!” But I’m also a naive dork who thinks everyone means to behave well. Of COURSE they’re going to see this kid as a narc when he gets back in the room, and the teacher really can’t follow up on the behaviors of students. That’s one thing we talk about even in higher ed: how can we follow up on students. It’s not enough for me to tell a student to go to the writing center; I need to be able to track whether or not they did and then evaluate their revisions between drafts.

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        • Briana says:

          I think the teacher meant well, but she probably could at least have taken the approach of “It has come to my attention that…” instead of basically saying, “New kid is complaining that you’re all being mean to him!” After pointedly sending him out into the hallway. Somehow I don’t think he envisioned things going that way. (Or, honestly, it’s possible his mom complained to the school and he never wanted this addressed at all. Something similar happened to me in middle school where my mother sent an irate note to the teachers saying I had complained about something that I never even had, and then they had to act on it. Super embarrassing for me as a kid.) And, yes, follow up! I can’t imagine what good saying “Be nice to this kid” once was supposed to do.

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