The Song of Us

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063256941.
Gr 6 Up–Olivia has everything she needs in her poetry club, until the day Eden walks in, and it is love at first sight. While the feeling is mutual, Eden hasn’t come out yet and wants to keep their relationship a secret. A whirlwind of age-appropriate romance ensues, until jealousy tears them apart. Eden seeks solace and acceptance in a group of girls who push her limits, while Olivia desperately searches for a way to undo the heartache. The more Olivia lies to cover her secret plan to get Eden back, the faster Eden spirals toward disaster. This novel-in-verse retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice is so much more than a middle grade love story. Deep themes, such as depression, parental abandonment, and learning to define your true self are beautifully and honestly explored. Eden’s 'fall into the underworld’ as she searches for relational connection will resonate with readers of all ages, but is especially prescient for those in middle school. As each girl tells her own story, two strong themes emerge: accepting you cannot change everything in the world around you, and accepting who you are (and who you are not) as a person. This is a heady romance, a spectacular crash, and honest dialogue about doing things you don’t really want to because you crave the acceptance of a group. Instances of underage drinking and marijuana use are included but not celebrated.
VERDICT This is a sad story, a hard story, an edgy story, but also a hopeful and important one that deserves a spot on the shelves of middle grade readers.

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