Goodreads: The Song from Somewhere Else
Published: November 10, 2016
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 …
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.