Review: All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

July 27, 2013 All Our Pretty Songs, ARC, Book Review, Goodreads First Reads, Music, Paranormal, Sarah McCarry, St. Martin's Griffin, YA, Young Adult 30

Title: All Our Pretty Songs
Author: Sarah McCarry
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Date: July 30th 2013
Source: ARC won from Goodreads First Reads

From Goodreads:

The first book in an exciting YA trilogy, this is the story of two best friends on the verge of a terrifying divide when they begin to encounter a cast of strange and mythical characters.

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.

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After 2+ years of entering giveaway upon giveaway on Goodreads, I finally won one and All Our Pretty Songs was it! I was so excited to dive into it but unfortunately the high of winning was deflated a bit as I read the book.

The narrator… well, we never do get her name. I didn’t realize it until about 70 pages in when I could not recall her name for the life of me. It’s not uncommon I’d forget, but backtracking through the book again I realized it was never given. Huh. Well that’s an interesting development. Moving on, we meet her and her best friend, Aurora, and discover how close of a bond these two girls have. The daughters of former best friends who remarkably shared a similar friendship many years before, these girls did everything together and were very much like sisters. Only problem is, Aurora was a train wreck. They loved to go to clubs, listening to music, and staying out all night partying, but Aurora filled her time with drugs, drinking and boys too and our narrator more often than not had to take care of her and clean up her messes. I admire the narrator’s devotion to her friend, which she proves over and over again throughout the novel in so many ways, but I was not so keen with her being taken advantage of and that’s what I felt Aurora was doing.

Once again, in typical YA fashion as it seems, we are treated to a story with characters that have no adult supervision. Ever since Aurora’s famous rock star father died when she was young, her mother has fallen apart and become an addict who doesn’t seem to be bothered to check up on her child. Our narrator’s mother pretends to be protective, a ‘witch’ who dapples in tarot cards and potions and such, but seems more concerned with what her daughter ingests for food rather than what she is up to with her best friend at all hours of the day and night. So suffice it to say, I was a little irked with that.

So anyways, they meet this boy Jack who is an incredible musician. Our narrator is immediately taken with him but is constantly second guessing herself and his affection for her with Aurora in the picture. Aurora was described basically as more beautiful than the most beautiful person you could think of. Jack is described almost similar which kind of made me suspicious of them as we step out of the contemporary feel and more into a paranormal novel. It’s really not until the last 1/3 or so of the book until we venture into a world with strange creatures and scary people with hidden agendas that may or may not deal with the underworld. I thought that was really interesting but I wanted more from it! It’s like we only touched upon it and were left with so many question and no answers. And ugh, the getting there is what I struggled with.

I admire the author for her beautiful, lyrical writing. I was really into it in the beginning.

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. At last he stops. Aurora’s mouth is open, her cheeks flushed. One of the flannel shirts is weeping opening. I can’t catch my breath.

Very beautiful and descriptive. Unfortunately for me though, it got to be too much and overwhelming after a time. I found myself skimming certain parts because I wanted to get to the actual story instead of these long descriptive paragraphs. For a relatively short novel it made it seem so much longer.

So what did I think on a whole? I don’t know guys, I’m really on the fence on this one because it has so much going for it but at the same time I had a lot of issues. I could see the start of so much intertwining between the music and the paranormal touches. I wasn’t 100% thrilled with how it ended but I’m not entirely sure I can write this series off yet. I just may need to check out the sequel to see if anything can be redeemed.

*Thank you to Goodreads First Reads for the review copy as well as the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin.

**The quote was taken from an ARC and may differ from final copy.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books

30 Responses to “Review: All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry”

  1. MåїÐ»-(¯`v´¯)-»

    That is disappointing! 🙁 I actually love the premise for this one, but it seems there are too many issues to fully be a great read. And that name thing is totally weird! O_O Even though you gave it a low rating, yet are willing to give the next book a try, I think I’ll still read this, just to see for myself how it turns out!

    Awesome review, Sara! 😀

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

  2. Andreea G.

    The summary sounds awesome, but it’s too bad you didn’t like it.

    Hope your next read will be better.


    Thanks for your honest thoughts.

  3. Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews

    I’ve been seeing so many reviews that are similarly on the fence about this book. I do want to read it, just so I can see for myself, but some things just bother me. For instance, I don’t like how the narrator’s name is held back all the way to the end. I’ve read books where this works, because at the end the name is revealed and it’s usually a shocker. But this time seems weird since you never find out.

    Anyway, great review. I totally agree with you on blocks of description without an real meat to the story. I think I’ll pass up on this one unless my library gets it.

  4. Rachel

    I’m not a fan of overly descriptive prose. It’s beautiful for a time, as you said and then it just drags the plot down. The only person who seems to pull this off for me is Maggie Stiefvater, only because she doesn’t go overboard, IMO, and it actually adds to the mood of whatever she’s writing. I think Aurora would drive me crazy! I hate it when girls are just a doormat for some stupid friend. Most the time I want to give them a shake and tell them “get a clue!!”

    Great honest review, Sara. Sorry this didn’t work for you. 🙂

    • Sara @ Forever 17 Books

      That is how I felt with Aurora and the main character! She was very much a doormat. And I recognize Aurora had major problems and needed help, but I really felt she was taken advantage of, especially at the end.

  5. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    I’ve seen quite a few people say the same things about this one. I really tend to dislike characters that are too perfect and attractive-faults are what a genuine character. More disappearing parents too? I think I may just skip this one. Thanks for an honest review!

  6. Sam (Realm of Fiction)

    Long descriptive paragraphs can go either way for me. I do sometimes appreciate the attention to detail, but other times just wish the author would get to the point. I suppose it depends on the story and the actual writing. I’m unsure about this one! It doesn’t immediately sound like my sort of read, so I think I might skip it for the time being. Thanks for the helpful review!

  7. tonyalee @ lilybloombooks

    I was excited to read this one at first but seeing all these “meh” reviews, I think I will hold off.

    Lyrical writing bothers me, to be honest. It just gets too descriptive. AND no parent supervision? GAH!

    Great review

  8. Lauren Elizabeth

    Hmm, I’m conflicted now about whether to read this one. I have a review copy and was planning on squeezing it in, but I’m not sure about it now. I think some of these elements would annoy me (the lack of a name, the absentee parents), but the writing does sound gorgeous, if a bit overwhelming. I might still be curious enough to give this 50 pages and see what I think. Thanks for your honest, balanced review! 🙂

  9. Amanda

    That is definitely exciting you won something through Goodreads First Reads, but that’s too bad you didn’t end up enjoying it more! I’m most interested in this series because I heard it’s supposed to be a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, and I’m all about retellings. It sounds like the myth isn’t really played up here (I guess we’ll have to see where the second book goes), which is too bad. Beautiful language is nice, but it can’t be what primarily sustains a book. I hope you find the series improves over time!

  10. Jessica Leigh

    I feel you Sara. This was pretty disappointing. I thought the end was the most intriguing, but you’re right. It took way too long to get there. Ah well. Can’t win them all!

  11. starryeyedjen

    Oh…this is only the first book in a series? Hmmm. I have a review copy, but I kept putting if off. Maybe, subconsciously, I knew better? I’m kind of scared of it now, after your review. 🙁

  12. Vivien

    I’ve heard so many mixed opinions for this book. It SOUNDS like it would be a good read. But the more I read about it, the more weary I become. I may still give it a chance.

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