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Songbird Paperback – June 25, 2011
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"Songbird weaves a beautiful tale of love and romance...a fantastic read with so much depth that it stayed with me long after I finished the last chapter." - DelSheree Gladden, author of The Aerling Series
"I read this book in one sitting. The romance part was sweet, and the memories disturbing. I rooted for Dani from page one!" - Linda Ulleseit, author of the Flying Horse Books series
"Songbird is a sweet story that perfectly captures the quest for love, laced with moments of pain and suspense, and you end up being sucked in from the very first words." - Courtney Vail, author of Kings & Queens
"I found Songbird to be a beautiful and honest book to read. I enjoyed reading about Dani and her love for Reece, who is her best friend." - Crystal Fulcher, Vine Voice
From the Back Cover
Excerpt from Chapter One of Songbird:
I was six when Jace died. He took me to the park while babysitting me. He always did things like that. At sixteen, he was my superhero. It didn't matter we only went there so he could make out with his girlfriend, Kayla. What mattered was he took me.
Mom and Dad never bothered. Dad was always too busy working or drinking, and Mom...well, Mom couldn't leave the house, or people might have questioned the bruises lining her jaw.
That last day at the park, I felt like a beautiful bird. I sat on the swing with Jace behind me, pushing me higher until I soared toward the sky, the air pushing through my hair. I gripped the chains harder and let go at the highest point, gliding down to the ground. I landed on my feet, and with a laugh, I let myself crumble onto the prickly grass before rolling over.
"Dani Blair Mays, I'm gonna get you!"
Before I could scamper away, he pounced on me, tickling me to death. I giggled uncontrollably until finally he let me up. I hugged him around his waist. There wasn't anyone I loved more than Jace. He spun me in a wide circle and my legs flew out. When he stopped spinning, my feet dropped back to the ground. My knees gave way, and I held onto him, laughing as I let myself sag against him.
"Hey, squirt, Kayla's here. You've got thirty minutes." He gave me a shove towards the playground, and I ran for the equipment then scurried up the rope ladder, climbing into the large red tunnel bridge. This was my hiding place. From outside no one could see me, but I could see out. At some point, a teenager had taken a cigarette and burned holes into the plastic, creating perfect peepholes for me.
I pulled a marker from my pocket and scrawled my name inside the tube. I didn't like peeking out when Kayla was there. They were always kissing, yuck! I didn't mind Kayla. She was always nice to me, not like Jace's last girlfriend. Kayla sometimes even pushed me on the swing while they talked. Her black curls bounced around her pink cheeks. I wanted hair like hers. The kind a person wanted to pull out straight then let spring back into its wildly haphazard place.
Most important was that Jace loved her. He always called her and said things like, "Kayla likes roses. Kayla's gonna be a lawyer." That he loved her was enough for me.
I put the cap back on the marker and was shoving it into my pocket when I heard the first blast. I twisted around and plastered my face to the side of the tunnel, staring through the hole in terror at what was happening beside the swings.
"Boy, I told you to get your ass home!" Daddy. His blue Chevy was parked crookedly, one of its front tires pushed up onto the grass. He was weaving his way towards Jace, flailing his arms. My heart thumped wildly, and my hands slid along the warm plastic as sweat slickened my palms. He held his gun in one hand.
I'd never seen Daddy with his gun before. He quit the force before I was born. My stomach churned and cramped, seeing him holding it now.
"Dad, I did go home after school. Mom told me to take Dani out while you guys went to Grandma's." Jace moved in a wide circle, forcing Dad to turn. Once Kayla was out of his line of sight, she ran. I wanted to run with her. I wanted Jace to run, too.
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Now, at seventeen, Dani yearns to escape her past and find love in the eyes and arms of her best friend, Reece, but right when the bonds of her friendships with him are strained, her life gets chucked into further turmoil at the resurfacing of a former foster brother in her school and threatening phone calls she begins receiving. She must make peace with her past and self-reflect to discover if her heart's desire is really her true love or just a replacement for her brother. And by the time the haze clears and the caller mystery plays out, will it be too late to follow her heart?
Some YA authors use empty, bland first person narrators, but Fristoe's use of Dani's voice immediately strikes chords of confidence and surety. Aside from a couple of grammatical slip ups, there's no hesitance or clumsiness or amateurism anywhere in sight in this debut novel. It's rich in detail and characterization and is packed with plenty of showing actions.
Songbird is light on plot, but it's the perfect read if you're looking for a story that will tug at your heart and stay with you long after you close the cover ... or turn off your eReader ... or whatever your word-addiction vice may be. :)
Then, people from her past begin to reappear, and she has to learn to face her memories. Songbird by Angela Fristoe takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride with Dani as she finds herself torn between Reece and Colin, the son of one of the foster families to whom she’d once been assigned. Fristoe writes of teen angst like someone who remembers how terrible the teen years can be, but with the deft hand of an author who also knows how to pen a nail-biting thriller. While this is a romance novel for teens, older readers will also find it compelling reading.
Songbird, by Angela Fristoe, was a surprisingly good read. Beautifully and lyrically written, full of powerful and painful relationships, true to life with all it's struggles and yet never gritty, this novel wraps you up in the story of Dani, an almost 18 year old with a painful and emotionally crippling past that seems to dominate her present.
The story line has serious potential to become the same old, same old - two young people love each other for years as they grow up, each loving the other romantically but thinking the other's love is platonic until they discover each other's secret...blah blah blah.
But Ms. Friscoe managed to take a common plot line and play it out in new and unusual ways. Dani's past includes her alcoholic and physically abusive father who kills her incredibly sweet, loving and protective big brother in front of her eyes when she is five and then returns a few days later to try to kill her. Meanwhile, her mother drifts into alcoholism to deal with the simultaneous loss of her son and husband, who she continues to love. And Dani spends some years in foster care, including a short episode in a home where her foster brother, Colin, who had been tormenting her every time they were alone, beats her so badly that she ends up in the hospital and is removed from the home.
Finally she ends with an elderly couple who give her the love and security she has never known. She meets a young boy, Reece, when they are both 13, whose life also has it's difficulties and traumas, including the loss of his older sister to a car accident and emotionally and physically absentee parents. But the two of them quickly become best friends and Dani's idolizes him as the only person since her brother's death who she could totally trust to protect her.
The novel starts five years later, as Dani approaches her 18th birthday. But here's where the novel could have gotten sappy but doesn't. Dani's life is not one of roses and daffodils. Her foster parents remain that - they love and care for her, but have not adopted her and as her 18th birthday approaches, she worries over what will happen to their relationship when she officially ages out of the foster care system. And they are not perfect parents or people, each with their own foibles and follies, their own annoyances and difficult moments. She loves them, and believes they love her, but her life is not perfect.
She still longs for Reece with all her heart and watches him play with a series of girlfriends, seemingly oblivious to her love for him. And then a new boy moves to town. After a few days of creepy attention to her, he finally introduces himself, or rather, re-introduces himself to Dani. He is Colin, her former foster brother, and though her memories of the time are strangely dim, she does remember his torment and abuse.
Meanwhile her her relationship with Reece is disrupted. They are still best friends but she longs for a more romantic relationship with him. She finally hopes to get it after she agrees to go to a dance with him as a last-resort friends date and when he sees her dolled up and beautified, he is swept away. Again, could have gotten sickeningly sweet, but it doesn't. Because Reece steps back in fear and tries to go back to being friends and Dani's heart is broken.
Dani is not blameless in the story either. Her response to Reece's withdrawl is a withdrawl of her own - she refuses to speak with Reece or spend time with him, even as she watches him struggle unknown difficulties. She also finds herself strangely alone as she has never made any attempt to make friends other than Reece before. Meanwhile, Colin forces her to remember some of the trauma she experienced in his home as a child, including an attempted sexual abuse, and she realizes that he was, in his childish ways, trying to protect her even back then.
Reece begins to struggle in his life, quitting his beloved football, while Dani befriends Colin and they quickly escalate to dating. And then Dani is put in the opposite position - she has to turn down Colin's love. The example of his behavior in response to her rejection makes her begin to understand the childish way she was behaving towards Reece.
Reece's problems turn out to be bigger than the usual high school drama - a brother dying of cancer and parents who have declared their attention to divorce and then each departed from the home to separate destinations, leaving Reece to manage her brother's illness by himself.
Dani is torn between the love she has for Reece, tempered by disappointment and rejection, and the brotherly love she has for Colin, tempered by the memories his presence dredges up and his continued unrequited feelings. And the specter of Colin's father, the one who tried to sexually abuse her, who did rape his own daughter, causing her to commit suicide, and a foster daughter after Dani, who he later tracked down and attacked, emerges with a series of threatening phone calls.
Sounds fairly cliche' doesn't it? But it's not. The work is beautifully written with dreamy flash-backs as Dani's back-story is revealed bit by bit as moments of her present seem to blend almost seamlessly with her past. Dani lives in this world of recollections that mix so thoroughly with her present that she sees every new event in her life through the prism of past events.
Eventually, things start to work out as expected. Dani and Reece do get together, but it takes quite a bit of growing up on both their parts. Dani dredges up the courage to confront Reece's mom, who, unlike Dani's own, comes to her senses and returns to care for both of her sons. Colin and Reece construct a fragile truce which allows Colin to be mature enough to help Dani understand the part she has played in her own misery and encourages her, despite the pain to himself, to make things right with Reece. And he calls her on her constant musings of the past, pointing out that her strong connection with the past gives her a dreamy detachment from her present.
There's some dramatic tension in the end (I won't give everything away :>) and Dani sees Reece hurt in a way that brings back her brother's ten-year old death in her arms. But it is the juxtapositio of these two very similar events that force her to recognize the difference between past and present and allow her to choose to live her life now, with all it's own challenges, committing to it more fully than she ever has.
But even at the end, the novel does not tie everything up in a neat little bow. Reece does not die as Dani's brother did, but he is injured. Poor Colin, haunted by his father's actions, is left with a new emergence of problems with his mother and the recognition that Dani will never love him as he hopes. Even though Reece is happy to be with Dani, he still has an absentee father and a brother dying of leukemia. And Dani's fears about growing up and leaving the security of her foster home still face her.
But the joy of the book is the growth that Dani goes through. It's not in the resolution of her problems but in the journey she takes and she leaves us with a sense that only now is actually ready to face the necessary step of leaving her past behind her in order to make a new future for herself.
Overall, a powerful but lovely book. It made me cry but filled me with a sense of hope. And did not patronize me by falling into a trite and over-used plot line.
So why not the 5 stars? A couple of unbelievable elements - the fosters who take off each year and leave Dani alone and how strangely absent Colin's mother is to Dani until she is needed to further the plot line. (As Dani and Colin reunited, and Colin's attraction for her grows, it doesn't make sense that he would not have wanted to at least re-introduce Dani and his mother.) And I would have gone just a bit further in the timeline of the story so we could see some of the new ways in which Dani deals with her life after having given up her escapism into her past. We end with her declaration of change but no exactment of it. Maybe an epilogue from a few years later would have helped?
Most recent customer reviews
This is the second time I read Songbird and I remembered why I loved the book.
It is beautiful! Going through emotions and life story of Dani was lovely.Read more