I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
TV nerd Kiki is off to a summer camp for an opera singing scholarship, where she jams contemporary pieces in the basement with a hot nerdy drummer at the camp for a golf scholarship. When her teachers forbid any kind of singing outside of opera, Kiki has to figure out if she will follow her heart or the rigid choices she seems to have locked herself into.
Cicero (kee-ke-roh) ‘Kiki’ has decided to follow in her big sister Tina’s footsteps and study opera at university, even though Tina spent most of her study time partying and most of her post-graduate time being unemployed, even though the camp costs tens of thousands of dollars and her parents are convinced she’s not even going to ‘stick with it’. I was particularly excited to read this book because when I was Kiki’s age becoming an opera singer was on my very short list of things I’d quite like to get paid doing as an adult but I quickly learned I didn’t have what it takes (ie a soprano range – there are very few good roles written for mezzo-sopranos in operas, and tenors get all the most beautiful arias), so I was somewhat disappointed to find Kiki spent most of her time practicing alone. Without anyone teaching her how to use her voice. Opera singers have a very specific sound they are trying to create, and it’s hard and takes years of training by a competent teacher. And her voice teachers were more interested in kicking them out of class if they weren’t perfect through a first run than actually teaching them anything. So the overall aspect of a ‘opera camp’ was a bit disappointing.
The other main plot was Kiki’s love of TV, specifically this show called Project Earth, and her bonding with the other campers because of it, specifically Jack the hot nerdy drummer who grows quite close to Kiki despite carrying a secret that would break her heart. Kiki herself makes friends outside of Twitter and even kisses a couple of dudes but in amongst this there’s a mole watching the students for any kind of rule-breaking. There’s only seven scholarships to go around and too many students, so some will do whatever it takes to get rid of the competition. This especially sucks because Kiki, for some reason, doesn’t seem to give a shit half the time about the rules, and encourages the other kids at the camp to drink and break curfew then, when her parents threaten to send her to a non-music university, she backflips, suddenly gets much better, and is determined to win a scholarship.
Kiki isn’t actually sure if she wants to be an opera singer. That’s the thing that annoyed me most. Opera singing isn’t easy, it takes a lot of work, and Kiki would rather jam doing contemporary songs, and writing her own songs. She got her parents to fork out thousands of dollars for a future she’s not even sure about when she’s seen her big sister fail in the same industry. She’d rather talk about TV on Twitter all day which hello, I totally get, but it’s like she’s using the camp itself to experience university life without being a university student. I do like how she can bond with other people when they have Project Earth in common, and I like how eventually she finds her own voice (so to speak), I just don’t like that even from the beginning she wasn’t sure if the camp was something she wanted to do and only auditioned because her BFF (soon to be ex-BFF) did. It’s not exactly like opera singing is a fall-back career, but that’s how Kiki’s treating it. I liked Kiki’s narrative voice and her entire character arc even if it was a conclusion I was a little disappointed with.
The other characters are mostly forgettable except for Brie the bitch who turns out isn’t such a bitch and Jack the hot drummer whose connection to Kiki is instantaneous but whose romance definitely could not be described as ‘insta-love’, if you could even call it a romance.
While I liked the inclusion of Tweets at the start of every chapter, I was thoroughly annoyed that for a novel supposed to be about student singers, there was no teaching going on whatsoever. The teachers at Kiki’s camp were horrible and I would be demanding my money back. Kiki didn’t learn anything except that she didn’t really want to be an opera singer. I liked the fictional TV show Project Earth and all of its backstory mixed with songs and bands Kiki actually names so I could look them up on Youtube.
The pacing was fine. I was enjoying the book a lot as I was reading it and it seemed to me to be a quick read. It didn’t really stop and dwell on any ‘filler’ bits and in fact what could have been a long drawn-out romance between Kiki and Jack had its stops put in it pretty quickly due to some regular teenage drama. The camp was only six weeks long so there was a lot to jam in there and to me it didn’t really seem to drag or lose the pace at all.
There are very clearly some good things about The Sound of Us and also some things I didn’t enjoy. Overall I think it was a good reading experience even if it didn’t quite deliver what I was hoping it would.