Monday 11 January 2016

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Review: This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin

This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura NowlinNetGalleyThis Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (eProof) - Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves April, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?
From Goodreads.

WARNING! There will be major spoilers in this review. There is a diverse element to this story that I have never come across at all in books, nor heard of  from other people about books I haven't read. Because of this, I think it's important to discuss this particular diverse element for the sake of sharing the representation. However, discussing this element will mean major spoilers for the book, so if you do not wish to have This Song Is (Not) For You spoiled for you, please do not read any further.

I originally requested This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin from NetGalley because I thought Ramona's situation sounded like a really awkward one to be in, and would make a really interesting book. But it went from one I was mildly interested in to one I definitely had to read when it was praised on Twitter for having an asexual main character, and it was such a fascinating read.

Ramona and Sam have been friends for years after bonding over their passion for music. They're inseparable, and both have feelings for each other, but are certain the other is not interested. When they meet Tom at a music college, they know they've found the final piece for their band, and the three soon become very close friends. But it's not long before Ramona starts falling for Tom - while she's still in love with Sam. Tom seems to be interested in her too, and as Ramona knows nothing will happen with Sam, she and Tom start dating. The three spend almost all their spare time together, and seeing Ramona and Tom together is so painful for Sam. But there's something about Tom that neither of them know.

What I found really strange about This Song Is (Not) For You is how much I enjoyed it considering how little I connected with the characters. Each of the three characters narrate alternately, and it's the kind of book you fly through, but the pacing means that months go by in a flash. There's something about these characters that felt different; I can't say we don't really get to know them, because we do, and I don't dislike them, but I didn't warm to any of them, either. I just didn't get emotionally involved in this book. But I still enjoyed it, and was gripped by their story.

I wasn't too interested in the music element of the book; they don't play my kind of music, it's kind of experimental, I guess, and just not something I'm interested in. But even if it was, I still think the relationships between all three characters would have been the major pull for me. This is the first YA novel I've come across where a character is genuinely in love with two people at once, without there being some kind of magical reason as to why. Granted, I didn't feel that love, the development of the relationships was kind of lacking for me, but from the way the story was written it's clear that this is love that Ramona feels for Sam and Tom, and not just a crush or intense infatuation. She's actually in love with them both. Which is a difficult situation to be in; even if she ends up with Tom, she's not with Sam, and she can't just turn off her feelings. And it's even more awkward and kind of tragic when the reader knows that Sam is in love with Ramona, too. As I said, I didn't make the emotional connection that I wanted, but there were moments when Sam talks about his feelings for Ramona and unrequited love (we know it's not, but as far as he's concerned, it is) that were really beautiful, moments I could relate to.

Tom was a fascinating character, and one I loved being inside the head of. I was celebrating whenever he discussed his feelings regarding sex. Tom is asexual. The word is never used in the book, but he discusses a few times his lack of sexual feeling and complete disinterest in sex. His ex-girlfriend broke up with him because she thought he was gay and in denial, because he never showed any interest in going further than kissing, despite his claims that he simply just didn't want to have sex. We have very few asexual characters in YA, and so far, I've only read one other book with an asexual character - Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson. What's wonderful about This Song Is (Not) For You is that it shows an asexual character who falls in love. I'd be interested to know if any of the other ace YA books published show this, but it was great to see Tom wanting and enjoying a romantic relationship, but not wanting a sexual one.

Eventually, Sam opens up to Ramona about his feelings. It occurs to him that he wants to be with Ramona, but that doesn't necessarily mean exclusively. If the only way he can be with Ramona is by sharing her with Tom, he's ok with that, and Ramona considers it. This is before either he or Ramona know about Tom's asexuality. There's more that happens, but in the end, the three decide to have a joint relationship - a polyamorous relationship. Sam loves both of them, Ramona romantically, Tom platonically, and Tom the same, and neither want to hurt the other because of their feelings for Ramona. Ramona can be with both the boys she loves, and have a physical relationship with Sam, and Tom won't be left again because he's not interested in sex. Ramona makes a great comment about how before she knew about Tom's feelings regarding sex, she would have demanded monogamy, but she does want a sexual relationship, so would have left him if the three of them didn't come up with this arrangement.

It was really fascinating to me to see how they worked this out, and how everyone was happy with their relationship. It's not something I've read before, nor something I've really come across outside of the TV programme Caprica, which I'd only seen bits and pieces of because my dad watched it. This Song Is (Not) For You is going to be groundbreaking for YA when it comes to polyamory, and I do hope to read more in the future. I'd be fascinated to see a polyamorous relationship without an asexual character, and to actually see how that relationship works - as This Song Is Not (For) You ends shortly after the three decide on their relationship.

This Song Is (Not) For You is a really fascinating, gripping and eye-opening novel, and despite my lack of emotional connection, one I would highly recommend.

Thank you to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 5th January 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Laura Nowlin's Website


  1. Thi is seriously groundbreaking in terms of diversity in relationships, and it sounds like a really great read, so it might be something I consider in the future. I struggle when I can't connect to characters though, so that might be an issue.. still, great review Jo :)

    1. Thank you! Jim of YA Yeah Yeah read it and loved it, and was able to emotionally connect to the characters, so perhaps it's just me. But this was SUCH a great book! I loved it!