When we first meet fifteen-year-old Serena LeBlanc in C.K. Kelly Martin’s latest YA novel, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing, she’s a jaded high-school junior. The stress of the drug-related disappearance of her beloved older brother, Devin, and her new-found popularity–courtesy of her other older brother Morgan’s recent reality TV show appearance–has caused her to lose a lot of weight. Adding to this drama, she dumps her boyfriend Jacob because he tried to sexually exploit her at a party, swears off high-school boys, and starts a solidarity club to “avoid entanglements with guys.”
But when Serena falls for nineteen-year-old cerebral Gage Cochrane, a customer she meets at Total Drug Mart, life becomes a different kind of complicated because he brings a new set of priorities, desires, and expectations to their fledgling relationship. Confused and contemplative, Serena begins to question her choices and if she will ever see Devin again.
The Sweeting Thing You Can Sing takes readers on a heartfelt journey of longing, love, self-discovery and newfound hope. Martin has succeeded in offering poignant prose, a fresh perspective, witty, slice-of-life dialogue and well-rounded characters, but this tale is best suited for an older reader able to appreciate the complexity of Serena’s situation and the insightful, achingly real perspective of this wiser-than-her-years heroine.