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Metamorphoses #1

All Our Pretty Songs

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This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think.  You’ll see…

In the lush and magical Pacific Northwest live two best friends who grew up like sisters: charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora, and the devoted, watchful narrator.  Each of them is incomplete without the other. But their unbreakable bond is challenged when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them.

His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls.

Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They're not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all.  We have paved over the ancient world but that does not mean we have erased it.
The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together in All Our Pretty Songs, Sarah McCarry's brilliant debut, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.

And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.

240 pages, Hardcover

Published July 30, 2013

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About the author

Sarah McCarry

12 books155 followers
I'm Sarah McCarry. The Rejectionist is my blog. I was born in Seattle and live in Brooklyn. I write books and eat a lot of dumplings. I like fomenting insurrection, crushed velvet, and getting in trouble.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 320 reviews
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,103 followers
August 11, 2013


Have you ever had dreams where they were so surreal and weird that they didn't make sense at all? Those kind of dreams where the most random of things meshed together in a gruesome way, making them visually look like Dali's paintings, except only ten times more bizarre? It's this book. A huge sloppy mess that gave this out-of-the-world feeling, like you're frozen in time and surrounded by distorted faces and deformed objects. I wish I could describe it better, but in a nutshell, this was how All Our Pretty Songs felt like to me.

The story could have been pretty decent, you know? Two girls who are co-dependent on each other, both of them being each other's strengths and weaknesses. They've gone through a lot since they were kids, and have only each other to rely on. The nameless narrator describes herself as a bit tomboyish, and describes Aurora as free-spirited and beautiful. Then a musician named Jack appears, the narrator falls in love with him, making her spend less time with Aurora. Aurora meets a skeleton-looking man who promises her things she can't resist. A dark story of a strong yet also fragile relationship. But of course, there were things that got in the way...

1.) The writing

Here's the thing. I hate walls of text. When I turn a page and I see a lengthy paragraph, I internally groan inside. Huge paragraphs make me sad and grumpy, and they demotivate me from reading any further. They feel boring, read boring, and they make me exhausted. Unless that paragraph is explaining something about the world, I don't want any of it. Nada. Zilch. Unfortunately, this book was full of it. Walls of text after walls of text, and the worst part is? A lot of them have purple prose.

You see, the narrator has this tendency to talk about certain things in metaphors and similes, over and over. Jack would play a song, and she would give dozens of sentences comparing it to the sea, to the moon, to the grass, to the barking of dogs, to a deep internal despair that it's like "an animal is living inside you", on and on and on, back and forth, yada yada yada blah blah blah. IT WAS EXCRUCIATING. Like, I get it. He owned that song. His voice was great. Is it really necessary to continue giving it flowery descriptions that mean the same thing anyway? I didn't see the point. I understand that it was meant to make the prose more poetic, that the narrative of stream consciousness was supposed to make it deep and dream-like, but it was highly annoying and over-the-top. I just rolled my eyes and balled my fists to control my growing annoyance.

Here's an example:

A single note, faint and sweet, travels all the way from the stars to fall lightly to earth, and then another, scattering soft as rain. His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls. It catches at my hair, moves across my skin and into my mouth and under my tongue. I can feel it running all through me. It is open space and mountains, the still dark places of the woods where no human beings have walked for hundreds of years, loamy earth and curtains of green moss hanging from the ancient trees. Salmon swimming against the current, dying as they leave their eggs, birthing another generation to follow the river back to the sea. Red-gold blur of a deer bounding through the woods. Snowmelt in spring, bears lumbering awake as the rivers swell, my own body stirring as though all my life has been a long winter slumbered away and I’m only now coming into the day-lit world. As he plays the party stills. Birds flutter out of the trees to land at his feet and he is haloed in dragonflies and even the moonlight gathers around him as though the sky itself were listening. The music fills every place in my body, surges hot and bright in my chest.


AND THAT'S THE INCOMPLETE PART OKAY. AND THERE ARE MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM.

Honestly, I really appreciate McCarry's way of connecting words and making them sound more beautiful than they are. I don't have that gift, and it's a struggle for me to do the same, but there's a limit where it gets too much too quickly. There's this line where it doesn't give the book justice anymore and only muddles them (coughShatterMecough). In the end, it only made me want to gouge my eyes out. Walls of text + purple prose for me is a bad, bad, BAD idea, and it only makes me feel disoriented. I guess you can say that while I was reading this book,I envisioned it as a Dali painting (which are awesome, but they're bizarre...)

2.) The Paranormal Aspect That Popped Out of Nowhere

Even though there was an abundance of lengthy paragraphs and purple prose, I liked where the first half of the book was going. It totally gave me that contemporary feel of growing up and finally becoming your own person separate from your best friend. The fact that they've been together for so long and then having their own identities seemed like a good story that I was willing to forgive the purple prose and walls of text... but around 60-75%, it became one huge clusterfuck and I found myself shaking my head and wondering if I was reading a new book altogether. Suddenly we have talks of people transforming into beastly creatures, of visiting Hell, of meeting Satan, of draining your souls, etc. etc. and I'm like... WHAT THE FLYING FUCK IS GOING ON?! The transition was horrible. And things were jumbled enough already and the PR aspect just had to make it worse!

I have no idea why this is a trilogy and how this will be continued, but one thing is for sure: I am not continuing. Aside from these two complaints, I found the nameless narrator annoying. She insta-loves this musician dude who's way older than her and gets jealous easily. I mean, I'm all for age gaps and stuff like that, age is just a number after all, but their romance wasn't developed enough in my opinion. The narration had too much flowery descriptions and flashbacks, a lot of them unnecessary and irrelevant, that it was just left out and we're simply expected to accept their relationship as the best thing ever.

But I do appreciate how the narrator realizes later on that the world doesn't revolve around her. I do love how the book gives the message that there are things out there that are larger than us, that our loved ones may love something more than you (like art, music, careers). But that's it, I guess.

Overall, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this book. Sure, it's dark and kind of gritty in a certain sense, but I'm not kidding about the walls of text and purple prose. If you don't like that, I recommend steering clear. Otherwise, feel free to try it out. Many others have given it 4-5 stars, and it may be a hit for you, but it was definitely a miss for me.

A copy was provided in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,968 followers
August 2, 2013
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

All Our Pretty Songs: an unnamed (and unreliable) narrator, a love story (but not like you expect) and a retelling of the Orpheus myth (but not like you know it).

All Our Pretty Songs: almost too good to be true. How is this a debut work? With this level of awesome prose? And gutsy storytelling? And by gutsy I really mean: simply writing a story that follows young characters who experience life – sex, drugs and rock & roll – in a way that is as real as any of all the other possible portrayals of teen life in YA.

So, unnamed narrator narrates: about her life and the life of her best-friend-almost-sister Aurora; and the way that she is always taking care of beautiful, volatile Aurora. There’s always been the two of them and their love and dedication and loyalty to each other. And there is a passion for music here that seeps from the narrative and that passion becomes almost tangible when they meet a musician named Jack. His gift is amazing and when he plays, everybody listens. And our unnamed narrator falls in lust and in love with Jack almost immediately (and definitely completely).

And even though the world we all inhabit is very much one of real things as it just so happens – as our narrator finds out – it is also one where things are real. So…when we say that everybody listens to Jack and that everybody pays attention to Aurora, we mean that literally. There is myth come to life here (and why the Pacific Northwest? Because “they” are everywhere) and the unnamed narrator – who is not beautiful or talented – sits in the margins, looking from the outside, unable to follow where they eventually go.

And the narrative is kind of dream-like and there are parts where there is a bit of stream of consciousness (kinda like this review) and as the story progress it becomes both more focused and more meandering if that makes any sense at all. What strikes me the most about the story is how even though the plot deals with life and death and danger and terror, the narrative is still extremely insulated because as worldly as the narrator seems to be with the parties and the sex and the drugs and the freedom, she is still a 17-year-old girl who makes snap judgements about people and whose narrow view of those she loves and about herself is still informed by her inexperience.

And I love her for all of that. I love that the narrator and the story is about complex relationships with close family, close friends, and sisterhood. Also with lovers and how love shapes her view of the world. So inasmuch as the narrator falls irrevocably in love with Jack, she is still involved in other stuff and with other people – I loved her relationship with her mother and with her friend Raoul. Plus there is a lot of negotiating that happens between how freely she has given her body and her heart and the fact that sometimes this is not enough to the other person. So this is definitely Coming-of-Age as much as it is Quest (when are those not the same?) . And central to this is also this self-awareness and this slow learning curve about what it means to be talented and beautiful which includes astute observations about our world and how we choose to look at people and allocate them “worth”. Because this is also a mythology retelling it all comes together:

"Once upon a time, girls who were too beautiful or too skilled were changed into other things by angry gods and their wives. A cow, a flower, a spider, a fog. Maybe you boasted too loudly of sleeping with a goddess’s husband. Maybe you talked too much about your own talents. Maybe you were born dumb and pretty, and the wrong people fell in love with you, chased you across fields and mountains and oceans until you cried mercy and a god took pity on you, switched your body to a heaving sea of clouds.
Maybe you stayed in one place for too long, pining for someone who wasn’t yours, and your toes grew roots into the earth and your skin toughened into bark. Maybe you told the world how beautiful your children were, and the gods cut them down in front of you to punish you for your loose tongue, and you were so overcome with grief your body turned to stone."

Which just goes to show how these mythological beings (also EVERYBODY on the planet) are complete assholes who randomly and arbitrarily assign value to people.

Because here is the thing: as much as the narrator constantly tells us that she is unworthy because she is not typically beautiful or talented like her friends the fact remains that she is equally AWESOME. Even though she is flawed (who isn’t?), there is loyalty, and dedication, and determination and talent here in spades. Probably my favourite quote:

"I will not let the terror of the dark get hold of me. If this is a test, I will fucking pass it. I will pass any test this creepy skeleton in a crappy suit can give me. Let them turn me into stone or water or flowers. I came here for my lover and the girl who is my sister, and they were mine before anyone else tried to take them from me, before this bony motherfucker showed up on my stoop and let loose all the old things better left at rest. Jack I will let go; Jack is on his own, now. But I will die before I leave Aurora down here."

Dear narrator, you are so awesome and I don’t even know your name.

To sum up: great book. Really reminded me of Imaginary Girls and September Girls in terms of tone, narrative and themes.

All Our Pretty Songs can be read as a self-contained, standalone book but I understand it is the beginning of a series. I don’t know where this is going but I will follow and I will not even look back.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,670 reviews1,268 followers
March 29, 2015
“This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think.”



This was a bit of a strange story, but at least it was quick.

Firstly, I don’t like that the main character doesn’t have a name – or rather we’re not told her name, but either way – she’s a human being! She deserves to have a name! So for that reason I’m going to pretend her name is Jane. Anyway, I felt quite sorry for Jane and Aurora in this story, their father’s were completely absent (Aurora’s father was dead through a suicide/overdose I think), and although Aurora and Jane’s mothers were originally friends, they are not talking, and Aurora’s mother is pretty awful person. She didn’t care what Aurora did, where Aurora was, or whether Aurora even ate on a daily basis. Pretty darn awful.

The storyline in this wasn’t easy to find, very little happened in the first half of the book, other than Aurora and Jane behaving badly, drinking, taking drugs, etc. the sort of typical things that teenagers behaving badly do.

The second half brought about the arrival of a boy called Jack, who wanted to be a famous musician. He and Jane seemingly fell in love in less than 20 minutes, but then he and Aurora ended up with something going on too, and Jack and Aurora then left to go to (I think Los Angeles?) in order for Jack to be a musician? Not very nice really. What kind of a best-friend runs off with her best-friends boyfriend? Especially when you have been best friends since birth?

Anyway, this whole book was a bit strange, and the ending was a bit of a non-ending for me, partly because I’ve read it twice and still can’t really work out what’s going on. I do know that
So, I’m really not sure what to make of this.
6 out of 10
Profile Image for Ideas are bulletproof .
105 reviews62 followers
Read
February 24, 2022
Okay this review is going to be pretty baffling because I still don't know what was going on half the time I was reading this. So, I'm apologizing beforehand.

“The hard way is my favorite way to learn.”

INTRODUCTION
I thought this was just going to be a fun romance read but damn! It just turned out to be completely different than what I was expecting. It narrates the story of two friends who grew up together like sisters. One was Aurora and the other was the narrator. Life has been pretty rough for both of them ever since Aurora's dad passed away. Life was going smoothly until Jack arrived. His music amused both of them and it nearly drove their friendship to the brink of destruction. They envied each other over this new comer, all the while still remembering the fact that they loved each other. Fighting over a guy was not an option. They started to grow apart day by day until one day...one of them decided to pay Hades a visit. (Ik you think I've lost it, but trust me...this book was hella confusing af)

"Summer is happening, and our whole lives are in front of us, and here we are, making a circle out of love."

The narrator has always been the tough kind saving Aurora's ass multiple times when she got drunk. On the other hand, Aurora is the perfect girl every guy would want. But their differences never mattered to them until Jack came along. It's funny isn't it? What one person can do to you and the way you look at things...this aspect is shown really well in the book. The narrator is poor and her mother Cass reads people their cards for a living. Aurora is rich and her mother Maia is always found wasted with too much liquor. Aurora's father was a musician and they still haven't gotten over his death making it harder for themselves to continue living happily. The narrator sought Jack's love and Aurora sought

"Let's make a world of our own so strong that no other worlds can intrude on it."

The plot was super confusing and it also had references to Greek myths and out of nowhere, they both found themselves in the underworld. I just didn't get what was going on most of the time. I didn't get what the author was trying to convey. I really loved it...but the fact that I loved it sounds wrong even to me. But I didn't hate it either. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The theme of love, friendship and betrayal are portrayed really well in this book.

"Aurora breaks hearts, and I paint pictures. We are both pretty good at what we do."

I don't know how much I'm going to rate it.

I'll never rate this book.

"Breakfast is a state of mind, not an hour."
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews201 followers
January 13, 2015
The 17-year-old No-Name Narrator (NN) of this story thinks she's pretty tough. She's spent her whole life taking care of her best friend, Aurora, the poor-little-rich-girl daughter of a dead-by-suicide rock star and a heroin addict, as Aurora flirts with following in her parents' footsteps. But when Jack, a beautiful and talented singer/guitarist, enters their lives, followed by a powerful and creepy music mogul, NN's toughness -- and her love for Aurora -- are tested to their very limits.
This books sounds grim and gritty. And it kind of is. NN and Aurora drink, smoke, and sleep around, and this has all been going on so long that it's treated very casually by the narrative -- this is no issue book making a big deal out of teen experiences, good or bad. Instead, this is an incredibly beautifully written, subtle, poetic story about love, desires (sexual and not), and how people lose their souls and (maybe) win them back.

The plot mixes a sort-of contemporary story (it appears to be set in Seattle in the mid-1990's) with a re-telling of a Greek myth, and does it with a deep magic and wisdom that really sucked me in as the story progressed. Early on, I was a little put off by Aurora seemingly being inspired by Frances Bean Cobain (and the Nirvana song reference in the title), but that annoyance passed fairly quickly. I loved nearly every word of this book once the creepy/fantasy factor started building. It also makes some sharp social and familial commentary, without being particularly preachy. But I really don't want to say too much. I really think this book is best experienced without too much foreknowledge.

I absolutely loved it and recommend it.

However! Two caveats:

First, the ending is highly unresolved, and nearly made me throw the book across the room. Now that I've had a few days to absorb it, I think it was okay after all, and maybe the only possible ending. But it's still hard to take after the lead-up to it, and is heartbreaking without being actually tragic -- there's still some hope there.

Second, I am one of very few reviewers who seem to have wholeheartedly enjoyed and admired this book. So clearly, it's hardly to anyone's taste. But it's pretty short, so even if you hate it, you'll only lose a few hours of your life.

There are two companion novels following different characters, and I am very eager to read both of them soon.

So try this! I think it's seriously under-rated and under-appreciated.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,852 reviews1,046 followers
September 1, 2013
This is one of those times when I'm almost completely stumped as to how to reflect on a work I've read. I debated in my head what I wanted to rate this book because there were times when it had me, there were times it completely lost me, and yet somehow in the go-betweens, I found a way to push through the narrative enough to care where where it went to the end. Note to all, though, I don't think this book will strike home with everyone who picks it up. And I'm wondering just how much of a fit this book is with its purported audience (Young Adult), because I'm thinking it might be almost better for an audience that's a little older than that - not just for thematics, but for the references themselves.

"All Our Pretty Songs" is Sarah McCarry's version of a punk/dream pop/shoegaze and sex/drug fueled modern retelling/structuring of the myth surrounding Orpheus. (I'm not kidding, that's probably the best way I can summarize it.) It sounds really interesting from that description alone, there are times when it really IS interesting to follow - if it can hold and keep your attention. It's beautifully written and has a sharp eye for details. But as I said in a review earlier this year about Alaya Dawn Johnson's "The Summer Prince" - you can have the most compelling, beautiful prose and set of ideas, but if it doesn't have some form for structure, it can fall flat on its face in the execution. I think McCarry's narrative knew where it wanted to go, but it didn't frame the story enough to keep me following without quite a bit of patience and effort. That was my main problem with the narrative, alongside the lack of streamlining for details. It even took me a while to understand that this was drawing upon Orpheus because the ties are so loose. I imagine people who have less patience would have a hard time keeping interest in it for its convoluted style.

The story's told from the perspective of a nameless narrator, which might seem odd to quite a few people going in. It tells of the relations between said narrator and her friends Jack and Aurora. Jack is a up and coming musician with a heartfelt dedication to his craft, while Aurora is a free-spirited girl who pines after her dead musician father. Aurora and the nameless protagonist are inseparable, almost like "twins", but the two are pulled apart in this music filled, convoluted journey with images of death and darkness, among a decent into Hell. I so wish that the story could've been better streamlined, because I think this story could've been brilliant for what it aimed to do and for the backing. There are a lot of music references in here that not only bog down the narrative for details, but I'm not so sure that the audience that it's aimed for (YA) will necessarily pick up those details as readily. Heck, Jesus and Mary Chain, among other noted bands like Earth, etc., were known specifically in that time of the 80s and early 90s that the references made may be lost and not appreciated as much as it would be among an older audience (not to mention the mature content that this work imparts on the sex and drug notations).

It's ambitious, and I'm not going to say that this work wouldn't find an audience for what it offers, but it's a very difficult sell - and it may leave people on either end of the scales as far as being able to take what it provides. I'm curious as to where McCarry will take this narrative, despite its meandering focus, so I'd read the sequel, but I hope that the presentation is MUCH more even in the follow-up versus this one. I'm glad to have read something with not only a diverse cast of characters, but also a narrative where the journey encompasses the protagonist's efforts in finding those that she loved and realizing that relationships and life doesn't always take on the pleasant tones that sweep us away.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin's Press.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,070 followers
July 4, 2016
2.5 stars - Boy oh boy, I'm so sad right now because up until 2/3 of the way through this book I was certain it'd be a new favorite. The writing was dreamy and stunning. I loved the depiction of friendship, the weirdness and otherworldly vibe. I think, however, it falters when it begins to make the fantasy elements more literal. It almost felt like a totally different book.
Profile Image for ALPHAreader.
1,089 reviews
April 17, 2014
‘Aurora and I live in a world without fathers,’ – so begins this tale by an unnamed narrator, about her and Aurora living on the edge until one of them falls in.

Aurora is the daughter of a famous and deceased rockstar; a Cobain-esque legend who left behind a wild daughter and her junkie mother, Maia, in a too big house with plenty of cash but no moorings. Our anonymous narrator is the daughter of Cass, once Maia’s best friend who was there in the rockstar hey-days and saw her best friend decay into grief and addiction, until deciding to take herself and her daughter away from that world and into a cramped studio apartment.

Cass is a macrobiotic witch, narrator tells us, and knowing the powerful connection she and Aurora have, Cass let the girls run rampant but always offers them safe harbour.

Our narrator and Aurora are the best of friends – one is the super-ego saviour the other her reckless id. Until the day our narrator meets Jack, a handsome and talented struggling musician who burns her up inside and threatens Aurora’s hold on her.

And then Aurora meets Minos, and everything threatens to come crashing down.

‘All Our Pretty Songs’ was the 2013 young adult novel by Sarah McCarry.

I remember being really excited for this book last year; I salivated over the cover and blurb, pre-ordered my copy and then … nothing. I expected to read rumblings of praise and recommendation, but instead I got radio-silence on the review front. I didn’t really get it, until I read for myself.

‘All Our Pretty Songs’ is a really good example of how story is King, and all the pretty words in the world can’t make up for a book that’s lacking story momentum. It’s sort of like a magic trick: at first you’re dazzled, but then the wire strings start glinting and you can’t help but notice all the deliberate distractions intended to make you believe in something that’s just not there.

Sarah McCarry is a beautiful, lyrical writer. Truly, I wanted to breathe her words in and roll around in their sumptuousness. For the first 20 or so pages I was absolutely captivated – I’m talking jaw-on-the-floor, tingles down my back in awe of her writing;

Guitar so loud we can feel it in our chests. Someone else’s hair in our faces and someone else’s knuckle in our teeth and sometimes, when it’s really good, a current charges from body to body and everyone around us is part of it, part of us, part of the drumbeat thundering through so hard our breathing shifts to follow its pulse. Music turns us inside out with hunger, the need to hurt ourselves, get drunk, fuck, punch strangers, the need to take off all our clothes and run around in the grass screaming, the need to get in a car and drive off in the middle of the night with a pack of strangers. We let the music shake us loose from the moorings of our bodies and hearts and brains, until we are nothing but sex and sweat and fists and hot hot light.

And I loved the set-up of Aurora as this Frances Bean Cobain daughter of a dead legend, with a junkie mother in a mansion house and her poor best friend, our unknown narrator, constantly keeping her from going too far into the abyss. I was interested, and I was invested. Here are two girls with lives destined to break, and I wanted to be there when it happened.

Things get interesting when our narrator (whom I should say, while reading, I didn’t even notice was nameless because McCarry’s writing is so distractingly beautiful) meets Jack – a real deal, talented musician. Here, I thought, was interesting conflict when Aurora is the one everyone falls for, but the narrator is the girl Jack wants. Jealousy creeps in, green-eyed and lurking and I thought, surely, things are going to get interesting.

No. Instead, things get paranormal-mystical and it just doesn’t work.

With Jack comes Minos, a frightening man with an even scarier boss who is interested in Aurora’s charisma and beauty, and craves Jack’s talent. Then the story of ‘All Our Pretty Songs’ veers into mythology territory and a retelling of ‘The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus’ about selling one’s soul to the devil. There’s also a head-nod to the Orpheus myth, about crossing the threshold to the underworld with a song.

Look, I knew the paranormal twist was coming because it’s in the blurb, but I didn’t bank on it being so jarring and feeling so disconnected from what this story start out as (namely, a contemporary tale of friendship and love, jealousy and grief).

Where McCarry’s writing so beautifully suits the contemporary tale, when I felt so connected to our narrator as she observes her life with Aurora and the past that plagues them both, I didn’t want to leave their world and enter into the underworld of paranormal mythology.

McCarry has a real gift for contemporary. It was in our narrator observing her mother’s love life;

Cass has a guillotine heart, severing ties as neatly as a whistle-sharp blade cutting the head from the body. Like any good revolutionary, she pretends that the casualties mean nothing.

And viewing herself as an outsider looking in, comparing herself to Aurora while still loving her;

I am to Aurora what a gift-store postcard print is to a Klimt hanging on the museum wall. I do not love her any less for it; I think it is best to know what you are and make peace with it.

This sort of writing suits contemporary YA, and I wish it was what McCarry had stuck to. Unfortunately her style is less suited to flights-of-fancy and fantasy, to the point where she had to actually start name-checking Greek myths because the second-half of the story had gotten so convoluted and lost.

To be sure, Sarah McCarry has echoes of Francesca Lia Block and her ‘Weetzie Bat’ series (which McCarry name-checks, so she must be a fan) but where Lia Block can pull off the magical realism, McCarry and ‘All Our Pretty Songs’ is far less successful. I think it comes from the disconnection between the contemporary-feel first-half, which suddenly changes gears to include mythology and devils in the second.

I see that a second book is due for release in July this year. Called ‘Dirty Wings’, it’s touted as a sort of prequel and tells the story of young Cass and Maia in a “gorgeous retelling of the Persephone myth”. I’m not sure about this book mostly because, we know how Cass and Maia’s story end sup – it’s pretty damn sad when ‘All Our Pretty Songs’ begins with Maia a full-blown junkie and Cass not having seen her best friend for years. Do I really want to read the story of how they got to that point? It’s not exactly hopeful, is it?

I would definitely read another Sarah McCarry book, for her gorgeous prose alone … but I will hope that in the future she either sticks to contemporary or fantasy, not this awkward mashing of both. ‘All Our Pretty Songs’ starts out (contemporary) and strong, but a muddled second-half loses the story entirely and all the pretty writing in the world can’t quite make up for it.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
June 5, 2013
2.5

First, what didn't work for me: I don't get why this is a trilogy. The writing is absolutely beautiful and lush and enveloping, but it did remove me as a reader from the story. And there's not a whole lot of story because the story is in the writing. This could have been expanded to be the entire story in one volume and not lost the style at all.

I also do not understand why it's set in the 90s. Maybe because the 90s teen age life is before my own time as a teenager -- I turned 13 in 1997, which means well before today's teens were teens -- I don't get what the significance was. The pop cultural references abound, and what it reminded me of was what I thought teens were when I was approaching my own teen hood, if that makes sense. There's nothing magical or mythical about this era for ME, and I have a feeling that today's teen readers will feel similarly.

Which brings me to my final big criticism: this isn't really YA. It's adult literary fiction, with a teen cast of characters that has appeal for certain teen readers but it's not YA. I don't get it. This book would do well as an adult literary novel, as I think the majority of the audience who would really love this book are. . . adults. Not teens. The teens who I see this appealing to are the teens who are eating up things like Rookie Magazine, and they're teens who are not afraid to go to adult lit fiction to get what it is they want.

That said, this book was well-written and compelling. While I felt disconnected from the unnamed main character, I thought her relationship with Aurora was fascinating; they were like sisters, but they were so different from one another and it was in their differences where their individual voices emerged. It seemed like the main character's strength came through those gaping holes in her friendship and in her differences from Aurora. Even though she was a bit attached to the idea of Aurora, she wasn't a clone. Even though she fell under Aurora's spell as a certain kind of girl (one who always gets the attention thrust upon her for her beauty and charm), she didn't let it define her.

Then there's the boy. Jack is a musician, and it's his musical charm that draws the girls toward him. And while the main character thinks her relationship with him is solid and that her relationship with Aurora is solid, turns out that maybe Jack and Aurora are involved with one another (there's a great scene where she is assessing the beauty of her relationship with Jack and then she's finding herself wondering what his relationship with Aurora is like and feeling a tinge of jealousy/possession of what her relationships with either of them are and what they are to one another). It is good for her to do that since it turns out that Jack and Aurora are running away from their Pacific Northwest city down to Los Angeles together.

Jack's got Aurora deeply under his spell.

Flash back or forward a bit, since it's both here in this stream-of-consciousness style, there's another compelling relationship in this book. It's the one between Aurora and the MC's mothers. They used to be best friends in the same way Aurora and the MC are, but now they aren't. Something drove a big wedge between them. Both girls are fatherless -- Aurora's musician father died when she was young and the MC's mother won't tell her a thing about her own long-gone father I have some theories about the fathers here, and I have some theories about the real reason why the mothers fell apart. But that's neither here nor there. This mothers-broken-friendship storyline is important because it explains why everyone is seemingly okay with Aurora leaving school and heading south with Jack but no one is okay with the MC going to look for them.

Enter ~mythology~

McCarry's book is a retelling of the Orpheus myth. Which I know nothing about, but I muscled through pretty well because I did pick up on a ton of other mythological elements in the book. I went back and looked up Orpheus after finishing and it all cemented into place.

There's a lot to dig into here, but at the same time, it's not satisfying to do it quite yet because this is an incomplete story. It ends without satisfaction. It does make me want to pick up the next books, but I would have been way more engaged and excited about exploring the themes and idas here were there more story to delve into and tease apart. McCarry's got a thick feminist chord throughout this, and I have some ideas about where she's going to weave them in the next volumes of the series.

I think there's a longer review waiting to be written here. And I think there's a review that will have a lot more to say. I'm drawn in and interested, but I feel unsatisfied in the end because there's only so much I can say or want to say without knowing more of the story. In many ways, this book reminded me of a mixture of Nova Ren Suma's IMAGINARY GIRLS for the magical realism and the fantastic writing and Amy Reed's OVER YOU for the story of friendship, of dependence/interdependence, the way relationships shift and change when romance enters the picture, the feminism and the slight hints at the way friendship can be an act of romance in and of itself.
Profile Image for Jessica .
839 reviews153 followers
July 27, 2013
1.5/5 stars

When I first came across this book I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful cover. I loved the colors and vines and was immediately curious as to what it would be about. After reading the synopsis I was definitely intrigued- ancient evil? A world both above and below? I thought it would be right up my alley. However, as beautifully written as this book is, I found myself bored for the majority of the time. I felt there was entirely too much description and found it to be unnecessary at times. With all the description, I felt there wasn't enough propelling the plot forward.

We learn a lot about the narrator's lifestyle, as well as her best friend Aurora's, and I felt McCarry did a good job with character development, as it gives you a true understanding of why later events played out as they did. We do not at any point learn the narrator's name. We know she lives with her mother, who was once best friends with Aurora's mother. Aurora's father, a former musician, is no longer alive and the narrator's father is not in the picture. Both girls grew up in rather unstable homes: We learn pretty early on that Aurora's mother, Maia, is a junkie and the narrator's mother, Cass, is a witch. The narrator's mother and Aurora's mother no longer speak to one another and we see that while Aurora's mother is still in a mess of drugs, the narrator's mother has changed her ways and has tried to become a more responsible adult. Both girls have grown up and learned to depend on one another, forming an unbreakable bond of friendship and sisterhood. However, the two friends really are opposites. Aurora is described as being beautiful and ethereal, but I viewed her as the weaker of the two friends. The narrator is boyish, and where Aurora is all light, she is dark- wearing black, ratty clothing, not caring about appearance. The narrator is Aurora's anchor: always bringing her back up from the darkness, never letting her get in too deep concerning bad situations. She fights for her friend, even when her friend is making poor choices.

The narrator is much more sensible than her best friend. Aurora is more of a free spirit, allowing herself to be taken to places that are not in her best interest. She is not uptight like the narrator can be and doesn't mind being flamboyant and out there. Both girls are wild in their own rights, but the narrator seems to know when to step back, where Aurora doesn't. The day the narrator meets Jack, a beautiful musician who can capture your soul with his music, she instantly falls for this man. Aurora in the meantime, has met Minos, a skeleton looking man who the narrator is instantly wary of. Since the narrator has met Jack, she does find herself longing to spend time with him and ends up feeling selfish, as she leaves Aurora to fend for herself on more than one occasion. However, although Jack seems to reciprocate the narrator's feelings, the narrator does become quite jealous when she finds he has been hanging out with Aurora. It is then that their unbreakable bond of friendship really begins to unravel. Both girls are heading in opposite directions, no longer being one and the same. While the narrator is spending time with Jack, Aurora is being drawn to what Minos has to offer her.

After a sudden turn of events, we realize that the narrator has found both the boy she loves and her best friend have slipped away from her and while she tries to accept that, she can't. She buries herself in random hook ups and literally has no joy in her life at all. The end of the novel is where we see some of that 'world above and below' we read about in the synopsis and that was by far my favorite part. However, it was not enough to make up for the rest of the book where I felt the plot was overwhelmed by the prose.

Overall, this book definitely had potential to be really interesting, but I just found myself bored more than engaged and with all the unnecessary description, it really was just not what I was expecting it to be.

*Received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review*
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews713 followers
May 16, 2013
Confuzzled. On the one hand the gritty feel in this drew me in. How they’ve only got each other (or at least, how she thought they only had each other). Then there’s how oddly lyrical things went… because of said darkness, it’s moody and descriptive, but at times too much. Points of this, had me questioning the images conjured, was it them tripping in a bad way? (Good) Or was this trying too hard to be atmospheric and whimsical/ fantastical? (Not good.)

That split set aside, this was filled with things I love about YA, (the gritty kind): music, first loves, deep connections between leads; connections that at once set them apart from all else, making them strong and weak simultaneously. It’s that last that’s remarkable. Their pairing is not an unexpected one, there’s a history there. And perhaps it is that they’re such opposites that made them make even more sense together. Them, perfectly matched up in how different they were: one, life of the party one, the other all doom and gloom and real thinking; one, easy living and damn tomorrow, the other watching on the side lines. Maybe it’s because of those difference that they made sense.

And then things got darker. Except I was never quite sure if I was reading what I was (even having to refer to the blurb just to make sure it was going where I thought it was). It’s when I wished Pretty Songs had stuck to the path it started on: of sisters and connections that damage those party to it. Maybe it sort of did, Jack’s entry certainly magnified their differences. How easy things fit in Aurora’s world view versus how impossible things looked from the other girl’s so that all sorts of emotions came out: hard ones especially like indifference of one, jealousy of another and even insecurities of both. There’s a neediness between them that had me surprised… both so strong separately, but they’re weakness was each other and all that’s made clear with the boy (OK, not boy) in the picture.

It’s when the mystical magical underworld thing that came out of nowhere for me… and I’m still wishing that it was just somebody somewhere in the book tripping in a bad way, but darn it! I’m still not sure about what I feel for this one. Half of it was good 'till it went elsewhere. And I know! I know the blurb made it plain as day, but with the way things began here, people! What a waste.
(I think.)
(Urgh… I. Am. Undecided.)

2? 3? 3.5?????
Thank you Net Galley!

Profile Image for Celica Jones.
19 reviews2 followers
August 19, 2013
Ugh.

I wish I could give this book zero stars. It's unreadable. I didn't even get a hundred pages in before I started skimming to get to the end. I am glad I did that, but would have preferred never having picked up the book at all. It's pointless, nearly plotless, and a waste of time.

The central characters are Aurora and a nameless narrator. It's a toss up as to which is more annoying. Both are badly written characters - self-obsessed, self-involved, better than everyone else, and so, so gifted and smart, yet the rest of the world is too idiotic to notice. The narrator brags that they have no other friends, then in the next breath, brags that everyone wants to be their friend. Others are especially drawn to Aurora, who drinks too much, smokes too much, consumes many illegal substances, and sleeps around, all while dressing like a demented bag lady. Oh, and it's the summer before senior year of high school!

The supporting characters are equally thinly-drawn and obnoxious. I did not care about any of them.

There is a supernatural twist that comes out of nowhere and makes zero sense. I, seriously, thought the "awakened ancient evil" was code for heroin-addiction and a drug dealer.

I also don't think this book should be categorized as YA because it is absolutely not appropriate for younger teens. Maybe 16+.

I am shocked and not shocked that this is a trilogy. Not shocked because apparently, every badly-written YA supernatural gimmick has to be a trilogy. Shocked because this book isn't good or interesting and I can't imagine that many readers will clamor for more.

Profile Image for Erica.
Author 2 books87 followers
April 20, 2013
this is the book. this is the book i spent my whole adolescence fantasizing that my life was like. i want to live in this book.

Profile Image for Soma Rostam.
239 reviews29 followers
July 2, 2013

I cannot describe this book. it was so confusing that I don't even know what genre it is. One word comes to my mind. WEIRD. This book was just plain weird. A lot of strange things and an even stranger plot.
What's even stranger is that I don't know the name of the main character in the book. The one who talks in first person. The one that the whole story is about. The author NEVER mentioned the name, so I will go with the initial "A". A and Aurora have been friends since forever. They did everything together, but everything changes when they meet Jack, the mysterious musician, and the guy with the completely-dark eyes.
The first problem I had with this book was that I didn't know if it was paranormal, contemporary, or a mix of both? It irked me that I didn't know anything about the book's genre. So, I didn't know what to expect from the book when I kept reading. The second thing is the characters. None of them ever clicked with me. None. Not A, Aurora, Jack, Cass, Maia. I couldn't connect to any of them and that made me sad.
The plot was, simply put, confusing. I didn't know what was happening well I was reading. I didn't get where they were, what they were doing, or who they really were. It got on my nerves a LOT, and I passed a lot of paragraphs unread, just because I couldn't get them. I didn't want to get them. There is one good thing about this book. It's the writing. Sarah McCarry's writing style is phenomenal, every single sentence she weaved was like silk, so smooth and pretty. I made tons of quotes in my copy, but I think that the author tried SO HARD with the writing, that she didn't give enough of her time to the plot or the characters.
I won't be recommending this. And I definitely won't read it again. I am not saying this book was all bad, it had its ups and downs. And the end was pretty amazing. But, here are some quotes for you, so you can judge for yourself whether you'll give it a go or not:
----
Music turns us inside
out with hunger, the need to hurt ourselves, get drunk, fuck, punch strangers, the need to take off all our clothes and run around in the grass screaming, the need get in a car and drive off in the middle of the night with a pack of strangers. We let the music shake us loose from the moorings of our bodies and hearts and brains, until we are nothing but sex and sweat and fists and hot hot light
---
Do you know what it’s like to be a girl pieced together out of appetite and impulse? We do. In that place of heat and noise I forget everything, forget being poor and being cared, forget the looming misery of school and the adult world, forget walls and masks and pretense.
---
A single note, faint and sweet, travels all the way from the stars to fall lightly to earth, and then another, scattering soft as rain. His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls. It catches at my hair, moves across my skin and into my mouth and under my tongue. I can feel it running all through me.
---
I want to do everything, everything, everything, but I leave my hand in his and tamp all that desire into a hot coal at the center of my chest.
---
Kissing him is like falling into a river, some great fierce current carrying me outside of my body, and all around us the music of the water rises and rises, and I can hear the wind moving over the sand, the distant singing of the stars veiled behind their curtain of blue sky, the slow, resonant chords of the earth turning on its axis.
---
You think that the world we live in is ordinary. We make noise and static to fill the empty spaces
where ghosts live. We let other people grow our food, bleach our clothes. We seal ourselves in,
clean the dirt from our skins, eat of animals whose blood does not stain our hands. We long ago left
the ways of our ancestors, oracles and blood sacrifice, traffic with the spirit world, listening for the
voices out of stones and trees. But maybe sometimes you have felt the uncanny, alone at night in a dark wood, or waiting by the edge of the ocean for the tide to come in. We have paved over the ancient world, but that does not mean we have erased it.
---
I’m a chalkboard that’s been erased over and over again until there’s nothing left but a haze of white dust. Before this I never understood how long an hour could take, how many ticks of the second hand are in a minute, how endless the space between seconds can be.
---
Profile Image for Brina.
1,934 reviews116 followers
June 12, 2015
Sarah McCarrys "Metamorphoses"-Auftakt "Ein Lied, so süß und dunkel" ist mir bereits mehrfach empfohlen worden. Kein Wunder also, dass ich auf die Geschichte neugierig wurde und dieser unbedingt eine Chance geben wollte. Ich muss zwar zugeben, dass ich nicht unbedingt die höchsten Erwartungen hatte, allerdings hat es das Buch am Ende doch tatsächlich geschafft, dass ich es letztendlich mit einer gewissen Enttäuschung beendet habe.

Der Schreibstil ist speziell, denn ich habe einige Zeit gebraucht, bis ich mich vollkommen darauf einlassen konnte. Zwar schreibt die Autorin die Geschichte sehr spannend, allerdings war die Ich-Perspektive, die ich sonst so gerne mag, ein wenig irreführend, denn ich wusste lange nicht, um wen es sich dabei genau handelt, denn es wurde hier kein Name genannt, sodass die Figur für mich im ersten Moment nicht greifbar war und mir bis zum Schluss fremd blieb. Obwohl man die Gefühle und Gedanken der Ich-Erzählerin gut kennen lernt und diese oftmals schon sehr direkt sind, geht es hier hauptsächlich um Aurora, ihrer besten Freundin.

Aurora und die Ich-Erzählerin können unterschiedlicher nicht sein und sind dennoch fast schon eins. Aurora ist das beliebte, schöne Mädchen, das ständig auf Parties geht, Alkohol genießt und bei allen gern gesehen ist. Die Ich-Erzählerin wirkt dagegen immer etwas verschlossen und hält sich eher im Hintergrund, interessiert sich für Musik und Kunst und scheint nur unfreiwillig auf Parties zu gehen, da sie immer in Auroras Nähe sein möchte. Obwohl die Freundinnen sich gegenseitig brauchen, scheint hier eine Grenze überschritten worden zu sein, denn die Ich-Erzählerin scheint schon fast von ihr besessen zu sein. Dann gibt es da noch Jack, einen neuen Musiker, den die Mädchen auf einer Party kennen lernen und von denen sie beide fasziniert sind.

Dies mag vielleicht alles spannend und interessant klingen, allerdings war mir vieles viel zu blass. Aufgrund der Kurzbeschreibung habe ich ein gutes und spannendes Buch erwartet, was es auch definitiv hätte werden können, nur leider hat die Autorin das vorhandene Potential nicht genutzt. Der Schreibstil hätte von Anfang an zugänglicher sein müssen, die Figuren hätten mehr Tiefe haben sollen. Man kann der Ich-Erzählerin zwar nicht absprechen, dass sie nicht tiefgehende Gedanken hat, allerdings war ihr Handeln oftmals da genaue Gegenteil. Auch die vielen paranormalen Szenen hätten mehr ausgearbeitet werden müssen. So gibt es zwar häppchenweise immer wieder ein paar Details, allerdings waren diese nicht genug für mich, um das Buch zu einem wahren Pageturner zu machen.

Etwas enttäuschend fand ich das Ende. Dies ist zwar an sich schlüssig, allerdings fehlen noch sehr viele Antworten, bei denen ich hoffe, dass ich diese bei der Fortsetzung "Dirty Wings", die bislang noch keinen deutschen Titel erhalten hat, bekommen werde. Außerdem war mir das Ende fast schon zu ruhig. Ich bin zwar nicht unbedingt der Typ Leser, die immer einen Mega-Cliffhanger brauchen, allerdings hätte ich hier eine Motivation gebraucht, um mich noch mehr auf eine Fortsetzung zu freuen.

Die Covergestaltung sagt mir leider gar nicht zu. Ich habe bereits im Vorfeld das Originalcover gesehen und fand dies sehr schön, das deutsche Cover ist dagegen eine Enttäuschung, auch wenn ich die Mischung aus Schwarz und Pink immer ganz gern sehe. Die Kurzbeschreibung ist dagegen gelungen, sodass ich das Buch unbedingt lesen wollte.

Insgesamt ist "Ein Lied, so süß und dunkel" ein netter Auftakt der "Metamorphoses"-Trilogie, dessen Potential allerdings nicht ausgeschöpft wurde und auch gleichzeitig einige kleinere Schwächen besitzt, die besonders bei den Figuren anzumerken sind. Dennoch denke ich, dass ich auch eine Fortsetzung lesen würde - falls diese denn übersetzt wird.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,694 reviews870 followers
July 13, 2013
Read This Review & More Like It On Ageless Pages Reviews!

"Do you know what it's like to be a girl pieced together by appetite and impulse?"
- All Our Pretty Songs, p.18


This review is probably going to end up quite short -- I don't have a lot to say about All Our Pretty Songs and almost none of what I do have to say is good.

All Our Pretty Songs has a great premise. It also can boast some truly amazing prose. When the mood strikes/the planets align/etc,. McCarry can create some truly visual and lovely writing. But that's only about 30% of the time. The other 70%? You get overwrought melodramatic teenage angst all over the place. You can't win them all, right? But it doesn't even seem like McCarry is trying half the time.

The characters are flat. Underdeveloped. One-dimensional. And? They're pretty obnoxious, or boring, or obnoxiously boring. Unfortunately for us, the readers, and for the book itself, the awesome premise isn't enough to make up for the less-than-inspiring way it is carried out. The lack of a plot for a quarter of the novel makes for a lot of aimless stream of consciousness narration from our unnamed narrator - none of it particularly riveting or engaging.

McCarry wants this novel to be the punk retelling of Orpehus. And she is not too subtle with presenting her theme throughout the short story contained in All Our Pretty Songs. As the characters struggle to decide what they value most, what they will sacrifice, the suspense does build into a somewhat interesting final conflict. But it's not enough to save the rest of the novel from being utterly underwhelming. It's too little too late and the end is too confusing (and open-ended!) to provide any real sense of satisfaction.

Ashleigh Paige's comparions of All Our Pretty Songs with the lyrical and creepy Imaginary Girls could not be more accurate. McCarry wants that magical realism Nova Ren Suma crafts so easily and so well to work here, badly, and it just never solidifies into anything remotely like it. It's a failed Another Little Piece. It's a brave attempt to create something original and suspenseful, but with the weak supports of cardboard characters and a flimsy plot, All Our Pretty Songs just doesn't cut it. The prose can be outstanding, or laughable, and McCarry never finds a happy medium. It's great or it's just bad.

So it boils down to one star for premise, one star for the prose that I was impressed with for All Our Pretty Songs. I really don't see how this could be expanded another two books - the plot is thin already - and I doubt I will be reading to see what happens next. Maybe McCarry will try to tackle a new myth, but high expectations won't be a part of it.

I guess I had more to say than I thought. This was a severe disappointed. An intriguing premise meets underwhelming
Profile Image for Hope.
8 reviews49 followers
June 17, 2013
As I started to read this novel, I found myself engulfed and enraptured by both the descriptive language and the relationship that seemed to exist between the two main characters; Aurora and our Narrator. We aren't given a name for the eloquent and artistic Narrator, whose words and experiences lead us through the tangled maze of this story.

At first, that is to say, for the first two-thirds of this novel, I thought I was reading an amazing coming of age tale; a story similar in vein to _The Outsiders_ or _Catcher in the Rye_. The language and the content are vividly inappropriate for younger readers (that is to say, anyone under seventeen) but I can see older teens and young adults taking it in stride. There were nuances to this author’s technique that capture your interest immediately and up to a certain point (which I’ll talk about in a moment) I was drawn in to the intense, multi-faceted and heart-rending relationship between our Narrator, her best friend and the boy who was set to change everything. It was the perfect set-up really; a tom-boyish, artistic Narrator who, until she meets the intensely musical Jack, had no real place for anyone or anything save her art and her lifelong, sister-friend Aurora, who just happened to be the most beautiful (if not the most messed up) girl in the world.

Then, all at once, the book changed. It took a 180 degree turn and I found myself, quite literally, screwing up my face and saying aloud, “what just happened?” Two thirds of the way through this novel, the author starts, quite suddenly, throwing in a bucket load of supernatural elements; elements that until this point, really hadn’t shown up anywhere in the book. Sure, there was a bit of talk about tarot cards and crystals earlier on, but nothing that foreshadowed where this books goes. And it isn't just the supernatural aspect that distorts the readers view; it’s the grotesque and gruesome content. Certain types of books contain certain types of material, I get that. But I felt ripped quite forcefully from where I had started, where the book had seemingly promised to take me and forced into this dark world that did not make any sense nor truly fit with the story-line thus far.

I realize that this book is the first in a series and that makes me groan a bit internally. If the author wanted to transition and compose a teenage angst- filled modern version of Faust, she should have started off doing just that – because I was expecting one thing and was not given a very satisfying payoff in the end.

Sarah McCarry writes beautifully. Her prose is pleasing to the mental palate and she envelopes you into each scene. But even her writing could not convince me that this book make any sense or went in the direction it should have. I don’t believe I’ll be reading the rest of the series, despite how attached I had initially become to these characters. The genre she transitioned into has no appeal to me.

(I was given this book to read via NetGalley in return for an honest and thorough review. I hope I have provided that.)
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews837 followers
July 30, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry
Book One of a trilogy
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Rating: 1 star
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.

And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.

What I Liked:

Literally, nothing. I'm sorry, I don't say this a lot, but this book appealed to me in absolutely NO WAY. Just the cover, I suppose. And the glowing synopsis. Gosh. I really, really wanted to like this book, but it totally fell flat for me.

What I Did Not Like:

There isn't much to this book. It's extremely short (something like 240 pages, which seems even shorter on a Kindle), and it's not what I would call dense. I'd seen a few things about this book before reading the book - that the author has a beautiful writing style, beautiful prose, a really beautiful way with words. Also, the synopsis leads us to believe that there is some powerful romance, an amazing friendship, and some mythical aspect to the novel. Sounds great, right?

Well. I'll start with the writing style. I really don't see what's so beautiful and amazing and gripping about it. I found the writing style and the narration boring and repetitive and not at all engaging. I was expecting something fabulous, something dynamic that would sweep me off my feet - and instead, I got flat, boring, lifeless narration, brought on by a not-so-awesome writing style.

Then there's the fact that this book is really short, and not that dense, and not a lot happens in this book. Literally, all that happens is the narrator describes her life with her best friend, then Jack appears, the narrator falls in love with Jack, but then Aurora (the best friend) does too, and then Jack and and Aurora disappear, and the narrator feels the need to save them.

TRUST ME when I saw that my cute summary above is more interesting than the entire book. NOTHING HAPPENS. The first part of the book WITHOUT Jack is the narrator describing how not-hot she is, and how gorgeous and perfect Aurora is. She describes how Aurora barely remembers her dad, and how she (the narrator) doesn't know her dad. Then Jack comes along, and sweeps the narrator off her feet.

That really irritates me - that Jack appears and the narrator and him just fall in love. It's total insta-love, insta-lust, whatever. There is no powerful love story in this book. I don't see or feel any all-encompassing pull between Jack and the narrator, that makes them soul mates, or something. It's complete insta-love, with a giant dose of lust. Seriously. They cannot keep their hands off each other, and all the narrator can think about is Jack, so much that she can't see straight.

So much that she doesn't realize when her best friend falls in love (or lust) with Jack as well. Assuming I understood that correctly from the story. There is a good chance that I didn't understand the entire story. I originally thought that Aurora and the narrator had the same dad - which would make the constant "close like sisters" references make sense - but I never got an explanation on that (surprise!).

I kind of hated the narrator throughout the entire story. She acts like a tough girl - she even thinks she's tough - but she bows to whatever Aurora wants. She runs off with Jack at every chance. She blindly tries to get Aurora and Jack from whatever hell they put themselves in (I seriously mean hell - that's the mythological part). She constantly tells Aurora that no one means more to her than Aurora, but when Jack comes along, we know that's not true. Everything is Aurora, Aurora, Aurora, and Jack, Jack, Jack. I expected some sort of threesome to happen at some point in the book - in which I would have STOPPED, and clocked in my first DNF. I don't know about your sexual preferences, but threesomes are NOT for me.

So, there is a love triangle, sort of. And I hate all three people in the love triangle. You know it's bad when you disliked (hate) all of the main characters in the book. The only character that I could stomach was the narrator's friend who saves her at the end (and I cannot remember his name, for crying out loud!).

I touched on this, but the plot is ridiculous. It feels like NOTHING happens, and then at the last couple of percents, the narrator goes on some life-changing quest to get Aurora and Jack, and that all in itself is so confusing and pointless and UGH! Can the author at least TRY to explain ANYTHING?! I don't understand the "mythology" part of the book. I'm putting it in quotes because I don't even know if it's mythology, or the narrator is doing drugs or drinking alcohol, or the narrator is off her rocker.

No characterization (the narrator does not grow up AT ALL), no plot, no explanation, crap romance... how did I even finish this book?! Thank goodness it was so short - because I remember getting violently angry on so many occasions while reading this book. Good thing I love my Kindle.

I think that the people who say the author's writing is beautiful must have a better understanding of how to muddle through confusion nonsense nothings that make absolutely NO SENSE. It's rare that a book confuses me. It's rare that an author twists a story that I can't figure out. It's also BAD when I meet a story that I can't understand, because I am not stupid, and yet, I cannot make head or tail of this book.

I'm done. I apologize to the author, the publishing house, and the team of people who worked hard to get this book to where it is. But to me? This book is absolutely awful and a complete waste of my time. (and we all know how many books are out there...)

Would I Recommend It:

No. Nonononononono. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking that there is a pretty cover, a wonderful romance, and a mysterious story waiting for beneath that deceptive cover. Like I did, unfortunately. I had really high hopes for this book, and it ended up being an utter disappointment.

Rating:

1 star. Trust me when I say that I would have given it 0 stars, had I the chance.
Profile Image for Kit.
705 reviews55 followers
December 21, 2020
I’m finding it hard to, well, find the words to convey how amazing, brilliant, wonderful this book was.

All Our Pretty Songs is a reworking of the Orpheus myth, the story of when he goes to the underworld to save his beloved wife. But it’s not just her lover the narrator has to save, but her best friend too. But what if they don’t want to be saved?

It’s hard to tease out what I enjoyed, because it is so irrevocably bound up together. It’s like, the writing was lush and lovely because of the heart-wrenching, dark story, which in turn was heart-wrenching because of the strong but fucked-up characters.

But I’ll try, anyway.

Like I said, the writing was beautiful, but also out of control sometimes, because the book was first-person. I thought it worked really well, you honestly felt you weren’t just WITH the narrator (whose name I would really like to learn, even if it’s not entirely important) but a part of her. You could feel everything she was feeling, all the love, all the rage, EVERYTHING.

And this leads me on to the characters. The narrator. She was a heroine, but without all the particular tropes you expect of heroines. She was angry, she was envious and she let it show, instead of squashing it down and pretending she was fine, and she wasn’t always a good friend. But she was also the best friend you could ever have, and she was strong and she loved the people she loved fiercely. I loved being in her head as the story progressed.

And now Aurora, her fucked-up best friend. I felt like McCarry did a great job in showing how lovable and charming she could be, as well as telling us. Because now that I think about it I feel like I SHOULDN’T have liked her, but I did.

However, I can’t say the same about Jack. That’s one thing I couldn’t get - behind the love for him. But I COULD believe that the narrator loved him.

The tertiary characters were all well-drawn too, and I’m looking forward to Cass and Maia’s story in Dirty Wings.

I think All Our Pretty Songs gets across the message that there’s only so far you can go to save the people you love, especially if they don’t want to be saved, beautifully and subtly, and I would recommend people who enjoy dark fantasy - and who are older, too. Or at least mature, as there is language and other “adult” things in this book.
Profile Image for Teresa Sporrer.
Author 30 books178 followers
February 10, 2017
Es gab einmal zwei Mädchen: Aurora und sie. Sie waren so unterschiedlich wie Tag und Nacht, aber so eng befreundet wie Schwestern. Beide waren ohne Väter aufgewachsen: Auroras war tot und sie kannte ihren nicht. Die eine Mutter existierte so gut wie nicht, die andere war fast ein bisschen zu fürsorglich.
Eigentlich lebten die beiden ein normales Teenie-Leben, bis zu Auroras Geburtstagsfeier. Aurora lernt Minos kennen und sie den Musiker Jack. Zuerst ist alles toll, aber dann folgen Jack und Aurora Minos nach L.A. und lassen sie zurück.

Was euch jetzt aufgefallen sein sollte, ist, dass ich statt dem Namen der Protagonisten immer nur "sie" geschrieben habe. Ihr müsst wissen, die Protagonisten hat nicht einmal einen Namen, was ein bisschen komisch ist, aber beim Lesen eigentlich nicht gestört hat.

Das Setting des Buches hat was an sich. Es hat was von den "dreckigen" 90ern mit Nirvana und den ganzen anderen Grunge- und Punk-Bands. Aurora und sie wachsen eng befreundet auf. Aurora ist wunderschön und wohnt in einem wahren Palast - ja, Dornröschen lässt grüßen. Sie ist eher ein bisschen mehr der Punk-Typ mit den kurzen Haaren. Trotzdem trennt die beiden nichts, bis Jack beziehungsweise Minos auftauchen und das Idyll zerstören.

Dafür gab es andere Dinge, die mir nicht an dem Buch gefallen haben ... Die Geschichte ist innovativ, aber leider auch ziemlich konfus. Ich muss mich da einer anderen Rezensentin anschließen, die ebenfalls nicht wusste, ob es hier um etwas Paranormales geht oder um Metaphern über Drogenmißbrauch in der Musikbranche geht.
Das Ende war auch ziemlich unbefriedigend ... Band 2 handelt jedoch über die Mütter der beiden und Band 3 über Auroras Tochter.

Das Cover ist wunderschön! Es wirkt geheimnisvoll und man weiß nicht, was einem hinter dem schwarzen Cover mit den pinken Akzenten nun wirklich erwartet.

Ich glaube, dass man schwer sagen kann, wem das Buch gefällt und wem nicht. Einfach mal reinlesen, wird helfen ;)

Kurz gesagt, die Geschichte ist schön geschrieben, die Idee a la Orpheus und Eurydike, wobei eine Freundin, die andere zurückholt ist auch wirklich neuartig, aber gleichzeitig ist die Geschichte so konfus und seltsam.
Profile Image for Liralen.
2,648 reviews143 followers
July 23, 2015
Judging by other reviews, this is largely a love-it-or-hate-it book. It's not hard to see why -- the stream-of-consciousness-like narration, the nameless protagonist, the quiet shift into the paranormal and surreal.

To be honest, the only thing that really bothered me is that this turned out to be not a standalone but the first installment in a trilogy. I like it when things don't end tidily for the characters. I like it when love is not the be all and end all, when characters make mistakes and do things that render them less likable, when they accept -- and like -- themselves as they are but also wish things were different.

How badly I want to save her and how badly I want to be her, beautiful and doomed in a pretty dress. How badly I want someone else to do the saving for once. (page 137)

These are not perfect characters. They fall prey to insta-love and immediate gratification; they are not always fair; they are not necessarily people you would want to trust. They're also a lot more interesting that way.

There's a much higher level of acceptance of the supernatural here than one might ordinarily see, and while that's not fully explained, it adds to the sort of...floaty...tone of the book.

But as for the trilogy: why? I mean, I'll read the second book (and probably the third), and hopefully the writing will be as dreamily purple (not normally a compliment, but I'll make an exception) as it is here -- but whether continuing the story will be an improvement over this appealingly messy ending remains to be seen.

This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think. You'll see. (page 2)
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
126 reviews3 followers
August 20, 2013
All Our Pretty Songs, Sarah McCarry's YA debut, is one of my favorite novels of the year. Set in modern-day Seattle, it tells a story of friendship, love and loss in haunting, lyrical prose. The nameless narrator tells us her story and that of her best friend, Aurora, who is not-so-subtly a fictionalized Francis Bean Cobain (the late Kurt Cobain's daughter). This is literary fantasy at its most beautiful.
Grunge references abound in this novel, including its title (from the lyrics of Nirvana's "In Bloom"), references to people and events surrounding Nirvana and other popular grunge and punk bands of the 1990s Seattle music scene. McCarry does a beautiful job of using these references to provide nostalgic anchors for readers who remember that era without being so heavy-handed with them as to alienate readers who may not be old enough to have lived through it. The story is beautiful, terrifying and fraught with sincerity and and the truths of the loss of innocence that come with growing up. The story is fast-paced and far too short. A preview of the next book in the trilogy reveals that it will be, at least in part, a prequel. I can hardly wait to read it.
I highly recommend All Our Pretty Songs to fans of fantasy, both those who remember the grunge era with nostalgia and to older teens. That said, this novel does have several references to drugs and sex, so I would only recommend it to fairly sophisticated older teens and adults. Its prose will haunt you for days and will leave you aching for more.

Read this review and more at The Library Lass Book Talk Blog.
Profile Image for Neil (or bleed).
949 reviews730 followers
February 10, 2015
One word: WEIRD.

In the first place, I assume that this will be a fast read but I'm afraid it's not. I found it hard to devour every bit of this book maybe because of the writing style which is somehow lyrical in nature (though really amused me) or I'm just used to simple writing style lately.

Chapter 1 was very long. Descriptive. The narrator managed to tell the past. Quite boring. Hints were the story will lead through, bubbled under.

Chapters 2 to 5, though quite short now, were still quite confusing but I manage to understand what's happening with difficulty.

And, in the end, I picked up that the story is about friendship and love with some fantasy. That one will do everything for the so-called friendship and love no matter what, even the other, though value the friendship or love, choose who he/she really was or what he/she really like. Glad to know that there is also ideas of being real to yourself and knowing thyself.
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,976 reviews584 followers
March 30, 2015
This was an okay read, although at times I did feel bored or confused. I felt more bored in the first half as very little happened, but more confused in the second half.

I'm glad this didn't feel that long.
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