I was provided a copy of this book for my honest, nonreciprocal review.
The Girl Who Sang With Whales targets teen and preteen female readers. It is rich with descriptive detail, emotions and thoughts of the main character, and it transports the reader to an alien world, though not completely unlike ours. It would not be considered an American YA novel, since it doesn’t deal with a lot of the romance that typically follow in those stories. I would describe it more as drama/action driven. It is a clean story that I believe parents could feel safe for their children to read.
Marc Secchia writes from a cultural perspective outside of my experience (United States), but plainly within his own (South Africa/Ethiopia). He weaves a tale from a background where slavery and indentured servitude are common in his everyday real world. This is important to understand while reading the story, with slavery anything but fantasy in many countries today.
To be honest, I prefer action-packed adventure stories, from start to finish, and at times I became restless with the pace. But that isn’t what this story is about. Rather, it focuses deeply on relationships of family, friends and enemies. It emphasizes the self-abasement/doubts/fears of the main character, as she learns to step into a role of importance in her world. This was portrayed clearly and efficiently.
The story itself begins on an island where the character was raised, and through varied adventures takes us to cities, on ships and other mysterious places, all important parts of the story. It flows well, and my interest increased as time went by. The book was well edited, a breath of fresh air in a world filled with self-published stories.
I found the ending to be a mixed bag. On one hand, the action picked up but there were too many unanswered questions, leaving me feel unsatisfied. I realize this is the first book of a series, but I felt there should have been more pay-off to inspire me to read the next installment.
Some of the words (nightsong, todaysong, crabshells, etc), though meant to impart an other-world time/place/meaning, felt laborious because of continued repetition. On the other hand, common phrases I use every day filled the book, making it hard to believe I was in another place. There were 2 suns, 5 moons, but there was no description about how they were different from our own.
Another element I could not relate to was the use of certain phrases and/or comparisons, though this could also be attributed to my culture. For example, “comber”, “scales and tails”, sack of mohili flour (what is that?), are foreign to me, though perhaps not to readers in Africa. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of detail weighed parts of the story down, and slowed it, without being important to the overall story.
However, in all it was an enjoyable read. Marc skillfully takes the reader to sea-life experiences and different cultures that are memorable and fun to be a part of. I would definitely recommend this book for his target audience. I rate the book 3.5 stars.