Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: A Song for Julia

A Song for Julia (Thompson Sisters)
by Charles Sheehan-Miles
Published: December 5th, 2012
Published by: Cincinnatus Press
New Adult

Everyone should have something to rebel against.

Crank Wilson left his South Boston home at sixteen to start a punk band and burn out his rage at the world. Six years later, he’s still at odds with his father, a Boston cop, and doesn’t ever speak to his mother. The only relationship that really matters is with his younger brother, but watching out for Sean can be a full-time job. The one thing Crank wants in life is to be left the hell alone to write his music and drive his band to success.

Julia Thompson left a secret behind in Beijing that exploded into scandal in Washington, DC, threatening her father's career and dominating her family's life. Now, in her senior year at Harvard, she's haunted by a voice from her past and refuses to ever lose control of her emotions again, especially when it comes to a guy.

When Julia and Crank meet at an anti-war protest in Washington in the fall of 2002, the connection between them is so powerful it threatens to tear everything apart.

My Rating: 5 Coffee Cups 

This book was beautiful, heartbreaking, heartwarming and at times pretty funny. This story is told in the alternating POVs of Julia and Crank.

Julia was a very complicated, very multidimensional character. Her father is an international ambassador and her family spent the majority of Julia's childhood and teen years traveling across the world for his job. Their last stop in Beijing is where everything goes wrong for Julia. She's young (14) and naive and in love with an older boy. And her parents can't be bothered with her. She ends up making terrible mistakes and with no support system from her family (her closest sister in age in 5 years her junior) she has to live with the consequences entirely on her own. And if what she went thru- no I can't tell you- wasn't enough, because her family is part of the political world, her mistakes are exposed to the media and has to deal with the very public fall out. She is emotionally shutdown tight and both extremely fragile and extremely strong at the same time. She tries to move on and be the perfect daughter for her parents and older sibling for her 5 sisters while completely, physically distancing herself from her overbearing (bordering on verbally abusive) mother and reclusive father. She goes to Harvard (her father's choice), majors in Political Science to get into International Business (also her father's choice) and dates the trust fund jerk Willard for nearly two years (her mother's choice) until he asks her to marry him. As a covert way of doing what she wants rather than what her family wants, she helps to organize an anti-war protest in DC where she gets the small time Boston band Morbid Obesity to perform. Enter Crank...

Crank on the outside is your stereo-typical rock star wannabe. Spiked bleach blonde hair, tattoos- the guy legally changed his name to "Crank" for goodness sakes. But once you get into his POV you see that this is all a front. He loves his band, it is his escape for his home life. His life's dream is to make music and he absolutely loves doing it.  He also deeply loves his 16 year old brother Sean. His mother left his family years ago so it is only Sean, Crank and his father. And Sean needs special care, being he has Asperger's. Crank comes off with a devil may care attitude, but it is only to protect himself and his brother from any more heartache. 

Julia and Crank meet in DC and spend a night getting to know one another. Julia doesn't believe it will go any further than DC (and doesn't really want it to) and Crank hopes the exact opposite. They connect. And Crank is the first guy that Julia meets that makes her believe she can fall in love again and, after what happened the last time she was, this scares the beejeezus out of her. So she does everything she can to try and get away from him. But fate (in the form of a couple of fender benders) doesn't let her get away that easily. And Julia finds herself falling. Not just with Crank, but with his entire family. Something she had never really experienced before. She even forms a close bond with Sean. They open up to one another and they relate as only two emotionally battered and openly ridiculed people can. As she opens up, she gets stronger. She goes against her parents, she tries to protect her sisters from the emotional aloofness and constant put downs she went thru and she does what makes her happy.

This story is the second part of a series, but each novel is a standalone in their own right. It's a prequel to Just Remember to Breathe which is about Julia's sister- younger by 10 years- Alex (I haven't read it yet) and is why it's set in 2002, during the war in Iraq.

This book has so many complexities that I can't even begin to get into here, but it is so well thought out and so well executed. All of the characters (major, supporting or even ridiculously minor) are completely fleshed out and, in one way or another, have a major part in moving this story forward. Amazing, amazing read.

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