Murphy Parker is going to be a songwriter—if she can ever find the courage to let anyone hear her music. When Murphy dares to play one of her songs in a music class, she’s shocked by how much her classmates love it. And her. That is, until the next day, when they hear a suspiciously similar tune and accuse Murphy of stealing. Someone is playing Murphy’s music and claiming it as their own. But who? And why?
Last month I reviewed the Australian author’s first title, How to Make a Movie in Twelve Days. This second title is set in the same school though it focuses on a different character. You can read them in any order since it’s not a series in the traditional sense.
Murphy is a quiet girl who finds it hard to make friends. She lives with her aunt and uncle’s family that includes two cousins. Murphy’s mom is not a part of her life and Dad can’t take care of her full time because of his mental illness. Her first person narration covers all the emotions of the person she is and wants to be, worrying about her dad’s health, and making music.
The story turns into a mystery of who is stealing her songs and the cast of secondary characters had me wishing for a scorecard just to keep them straight. There’s Taylor, Jock, Ngaire, Pilar, Henry, Haley, Jhyll, Marcie, Avery, Ava, Pip, Olivia J., Olivia R., Zara, Rissa, Willow, Homer, Noah, and Tom. Whew!
My guess as to the guilty party changed many times and I ultimately chose the wrong one. Getting there through 36 chapters (or tracks as they are called) was a journey I enjoyed as Murphy deals with her own mental health and Dad’s even more serious illness. Learning how to be a friend and connecting with others will be a theme 6th graders and up will have an instant connection.
The ending deserved an encore!
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: HOW TO WRITE THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR LIFE by Fiona Hardy
- The slow emerging bond that develops with Murphy and a quiet boy, Avery, was handled beautifully.
- The topic of parental depression is not often featured in MG books. The sensitive way it was handled here made the loving bond between parent and child even more special.
- Learning how friends should treat each other is a perfect lesson for young readers dealing with their own friendship struggles.
- The exchanges between Murphy and her cousins were spot on with humor and wicked comebacks.
- An appreciation for music can make a huge difference in finding connection and meaning in one’s own life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fiona Hardy is a bookseller at Readings Books (and was in fact shortlisted for ABA Young Bookseller of the Year in 2017). She is a reviewer published in Books+Publishing, The Big Issue, and Readings Monthly, and a committee member of the Australian Crime Writers Association, which organizes the Ned Kelly Awards. She has also appeared in The Big Issue Fiction Edition 2017, with her short story “America’s Seventh Richest Musician”.
Her first book, ‘How to Make a Movie in Twelve Days’, was longlisted for the ABIA and Indie Book Awards, and was a CBCA Notable Book for 2020.
After you comment below be sure to visit all the other bloggers participating in this week’s edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.
Books about musical students always interest me. Thanks for sharing this excellent review, Greg.
I lived for music and theater as a teen, so this most definitely appeals to me! What a great mystery. Enjoyed the first book, and second sounds like a read — but so many characters. Wow!
This sounds really fun! Music is such a big part of kids’ lives — I can see this one being popular!
I was intrigued by your review of Hardy’s first book. Now I’m adding this one to my TBR as well. It sounds great. Thanks for the review.
I have a limit of about five friends plus additional family members, teachers, etc. I’ve also noticed that some Australian books don’t do very well with my students. Glad you liked this one, though!
This sounds good. (Pun intended!) I will have to keep an eye out for it!