Published by Entangled Teen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Goodreads: ★★★ 1/2
Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.
She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.
Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.
But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.
When I heard that Entangled Teen was releasing a book that takes place at opera camp, I knew I had to read it. I love when music plays a role in the novels I read, and The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle definitely piqued my interest. Readers follow teenager Kiki Nichols as she goes away to a prestigious opera camp to compete for one of seven scholarships to college. Kiki is a shy girl who spends most of her time watching TV and talking with her Twitter friends, and hopes to break out of her shell at camp.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Sound of Us. The story idea is great, and had me turning pages to find out what would happen next. I loved the competitive aspect of Kiki’s opera camp, and could relate to everyone vying for one of the seven scholarships. Plus, there was an added mystery element to the novel, because one of the students is a mole, and will tell the teacher if any of the kids break the rules. Of course, it is also great to see Kiki grow in the short time she is away at camp.
Similarly, I liked the writing style and think it is very well done. Hammerle does a great job at maintaining a realistic teenage voice, while at the same time not compromising the quality of her writing. I’ve read a lot of young adult books that speak just as a teenager would, and for me that detracts greatly from the reading experience. The Sound of Us is easy to read, but not cliché.
Unfortunately, there are several things about the book that I did not enjoy. First, I was very uncomfortable with the role of underage drinking in the novel. Yes, some teenagers do drink in real life, but I think the way it is handled in the book does not send a good message to the readers. Not only are the repercussions for the drinking very minor when the students are caught, but Kiki makes a statement that really caused me to take a step back. In one scene, Kiki says: “The beer is a license to make bad decisions.” Kiki never seems to realize why it is not okay to use alcohol as an excuse. While drinking does play a small role in The Sound of Us, it definitely impacted my enjoyment of the novel.
In the same way, I also felt very uncomfortable with how cheating is portrayed in the book. I won’t discuss this issue fully due to spoilers, but I did want to mention it because I know many people will not read a book if they know it involves cheating. Just as the drinking issue is not fully resolved, the cheating isn’t either. At the end of the book, it’s basically swept under the rug without being dealt with head on.
Moreover, there are a few little things about The Sound of Us that detracted from my reading experience. For example, I really loved how pop culture plays a role in the book. Kiki loves TV, and often talks about how the people she meets in real life remind her of actors or characters in pop culture. However, Kiki is a big fangirl for a fictional show called Planet Earth. At times I was confused between the fictional references versus the real life ones. There were some instances where I didn’t know if I just missed a reference, or if it was based on something fictional.
The author also uses a slang word quite often in the book that I had to look up to get the meaning. It turns out the word is British slang, which I found surprising, as the book is set in America and none of the characters in The Sound of Us are from the UK.
Finally, I got a bit annoyed with how often Kiki talks about how she doesn’t want to be seen as the ‘aunt’ in her friend group. Apparently, being seen as an aunt is a bad thing to her, as it seems to mean she is the side character that no one likes. As a proud aunt myself, I thought this was frustrating and quite insulting, especially because it is repeated so much in the book.
Thus, while I did really enjoy The Sound of Us for the most part, there are definitely things along the way that I wish were not included in the novel, or were handled in a different way. This is Julie Hammerle’s debut novel, and I would definitely consider reading books from her in the future if the story sounds like something I would like. I do recommend this book if the premise sounds interesting to you. It is a quick and fun read, and great for music lovers.
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