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Charming: The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Hello!

I accidentally read the third book in a trilogy recently…before reading the first two! OOPS!

I honestly didn’t know The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell belonged in a trilogy because it really did seem to stand on it’s own.

In the conclusion to the bestselling Secret Language of Girls trilogy, Marylin and Kate find that boys can be just as complicated as friendship. Marylin knows that, as a middle school cheerleader, she has certain obligations. She has to smile as she walks down the hall, be friends with the right The Sound of Your Voice Only Really Far Away by Frances O'Roark Dowellpeople, and keep her manicure in tip-top shape. But Marylin is surprised to learn there are also rules about whom she’s allowed to like;and Benjamin, the student body president, is deemed unacceptable. But maybe there is a way to convince the cheerleaders that her interest in Benjamin is for their own good.

Kate, of course, finds this ludicrous. She is going to like whom she likes, thank you very much. And she just so happens to be spending more time than ever with Matthew Holler. But even a girl who marches to the beat of her own guitar strings can play the wrong notes;and are she and Matthew even playing the same song? She’s just not sure. So when Matthew tells Kate that the school’s Audio Lab needs funding from the student government, she decides to do what she can to help him get it.

But there isn’t enough money to go around, and it soon becomes clear that only one of the two girls can get her way. Ultimately, though, is it even her way? Or are both girls pushing for something they never really wanted in the first place?

One thing I absolutely think is perfect about this book is the cover. The colors are just so bright and inviting. It is one of my favorite books to display in my media center!

Like I mentioned before, The Sound of Your Voice, is the conclusion of a trilogy. Since I read it without having read the first two books I can honestly say that I do believe it can stand alone and you don’t have to have read the previous books. Dowell does a good job of providing context in a way that doesn’t feel like she is playing catch up; there is no “previously on Dawson’s Creek” moments.

Identity and personal ethics are big themes for this book. Both Marilyn and Kate are struggling to figure out their own identities and how these identities relate to and influence the choices they make. They’re basically asking themselves questions about the type of person they will be.

The girls’ on-and-off-again friendship is completely relateable to anyone who has experienced middle school. While struggling with the shape of their own identities, they’re also figuring out if its okay for their friend to have a totally different identity – can friendship even happen with they’re so different from one another? These questions are so well known to middle schoolers that it just amazes me how well Dowell writes them. It’s like she vividly remembers what it was like to be at this pivotal stage in life.

As implied on the cover and in the book’s summary, there is some romance woven throughout the story, but it really does take a backseat to the real focus, which is Marilyn and Kate’s personal and relational issues.

For those of you who have actually read the first two books, you’ll enjoy hearing from these characters again. And for the people like me, who happened on The Sound of Your Voice…But Only Really Far Away without knowledge of the trilogy, you’ll be pleased with this charming contemporary story of friendship and identity.

Author: Frances O’Roark Dowell

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 192 pages

Series: Third book in The Secret Language of Girls trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away (Secret Language of Girls)