A Song for Ella Grey, by David Almond

This is charming book, but while it is aimed at teens, I felt that it sits on the cusp of young adult and new adult fiction, it is definitely not one of younger readers. This book is based around the Greek legend about Orpheus who as you may know, was a mythical and charming musician.

Claire is the narrator of the book and early on it is revealed that her best friend, Ella Grey, has died. Claire then goes on to relate the events leading to the death of her best friend and intimated lover. Both girls are in that emergent stage between teenager and woman and they and their friends are exploring the freedom and the need to make independent, and correct, choices that young adults face in their last years at school.

This group live in Newcastle and the river Tyne and their coming of age trips to local beaches where they meet a young man, a wanderer, a musician, named Orpheus. Orpheus entrances Ella, as he does many of the group, but Ella’s utter fixation with him ultimately plays a part in her death. The heartbreak that leads to extreme thoughts of suicide are palpable in this book. In fact all of the experiences that this group of teens experience are extreme, mainly because of they are the first events in their lives – first freedom, first love, first loss.

Alongside the story, the setting and details of Ella’s over-protective adoptive parents, frustrated teachers, homosexuality and intense first love will be familiar and believable to many teenagers. David Almond is an award-winning writer for young people, and his direct and poetic style that uses language to both describe and illustrate is superb. I am as enchanted with David Almond’s writing as I was with his latest book. I am off to seek more of his fantastic work.

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TITLE: A Song for Ella Grey
AUTHOR(S): David Almond
PUBLISHER: Hachette
RRP: $29.99
ISBN: 9781444919547

Gillian Torckler Gillian writes books for adults and children, has a PhD in medicine, and likes to create cool things from wool. She’s been scuba diving for over 25 years, and collaborated with her photographer husband on several underwater themed books. She lives in North Auckland, and sometimes on the Hauraki Gulf on the family yacht. Gillian enjoys reading fabulous science books and biographies, and almost any fiction except for fantasy and horror. Read more at gilliantorckler.com.

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