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Songs for a Teenage Nomad    by Kim Culbertson Amazon.com order for
Songs for a Teenage Nomad
by Kim Culbertson
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

If I were comparing YA lit to music, I would say that the majority of the works are like pop music light and fun with a hint of angst. On the other hand, Kim Culbertson's Songs for a Teenage Nomad is like indie music uniquely melancholy and just slightly disjointed.

Calle Smith has spent her life moving from town to town at the flip of a coin, usually after her mother's newest Ford-driving boyfriend or husband deserts them. At the start of her freshman year of high school, Calle finds herself in Andreas Bay, California. Having been the new kid at school her whole life, sometimes even switching school multiple times in one year, Calle is used to being on the fringe of school society.

She is startled, then, when she finds herself becoming part of the drama group and making true friends for the first time in her life. She also finds herself falling for a football star who is way out of her league and deemed trouble by her new friends. Calle, though, has never been one to conform to peer pressure, and she intends to go about her life as she see fit. However, what is starting to look like a normal life is turned on its head when Calle learns the real reason her mother keeps moving them around California.

The mood of Songs for a Teenage Nomad is definitely more melancholy than typical YA fiction. This made it hard for me to get into the story, although Calle is a likeable and very believable teenager. However, the mood did closely resemble what high school life really feels like, not what many adults glorify it to be. Calle and her friends seemed like any teenagers you might meet on the street, which gave them a realness not always found in the more bright and bubbly YA fiction.

The story itself was also different than typical YA fare. While many of the elements were common to novels aimed at teen readers, the format was a little looser than most. It was still linear, but time would pass at different speeds between and within chapters, making it feel more surreal, like life actually is.

Kim Culbertson has penned a wholly unique work that will resonate with teens. Songs for a Teenage Nomad may keep you at a distance with its bittersweetness, but that is part of what makes it feel so real more alive than your typical YA novel.

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