Review by Sophia Ayub
A tale of the unlikely bonds of friendship set in an eerie, mystical world beyond ours, The Songs from Somewhere Else is a heartfelt and adventurous read.
Fran is an ordinary young girl, facing the same struggle many young people face during the summer holidays: the battle against boredom. With her best friend away, Fran’s main aim is to search for her beloved missing cat, Quintilius Minimus. Whilst trying to find her cat, she also faces the battle against her foe, Neil Noble, a rotten boy and a bully who strives constantly to make Fran’s life a living hell. One day, Fran becomes acquainted with Nick, an odd, unpopular young boy living alone with his father. As Fran becomes more and more familiar with Nick, she discovers a lot about the world amongst worlds in which we live.
As readers, we gain an insight into the emotions faced by characters such as Fran, and experience the anxiety she faces. In the story it is represented through her ‘stomach’, which ‘speaks’ and voices her deep inner thoughts. These voiced thoughts seem to be at their most active when Fran is faced by stressful and high risk environments and situations. A. F. Harrold’s novel presents a clear insight into the disastrous ramifications of bullying on the lives of young adults.
Yet, A.F. Harrold also takes the reader on a journey through the book, showing improvement and strength on Fran’s part, displaying her ability to – slowly but surely – find her inner confidence and strength. She does not only conquer her surrounding obstructions, but also faces and defeats her inner battles. It is this focus on the protagonist’s internal journey which made the book so enjoyable.
I also enjoyed the portrayal of the communication between Fran and her father and other adults. The way in which society tends to communicate with young people is challenged, almost mocked, through Fran’s thought processes. In certain conversations she has with her father, she states her anger at his patronizing conversational approach, since he speaks to her as if she is clueless and unaware. Yet, rather than childhood ignorance, what we see is Fran’s growing knowledge of the world, which the vast majority of adults will never understand, comprehend, or even wish to discover.
Overall, the book was an excellent read, alongside its beautiful illustrations by Levi Pinfold, which help not only create a vivid picture of the story, but also increase the book’s eeriness and intensity.