Grace Notes by Karen Comer is beautifully and tenderly written and I would have happily read the book in one session if I hadn’t had other tasks like feeding the family to do! Grace Notes is the debut young adult verse novel for Melbourne author Karen Comer. It is set in Melbourne and begins at the start of the pandemic in 2020. I will note that I am lucky enough to know Karen and was delighted to receive a copy of her first book.
Don’t you or your kids be put off by the fact that it is written in verse – we are not talking about Shakespearean verse here! The verse is incredibly accessible – punchy short sentences with impact, short text exchanges, and delicately written emotional thoughts which make the text so engaging. The use of typeface, the setting of the text on the page and the alternating between the views of the two main characters all work brilliantly to keep you turning the pages.
For anyone who lived through Melbourne’s long lockdowns (or experienced lockdowns in other parts of Australia and the world), you will know just how true that statement is.
The book follows the merging stories of two teenagers in Melbourne. Grace Dalfinch is a talented violinist who longs to play contemporary music in bars, but her mum forbids her and James Crux, an aspiring street artist who promised his dad he wouldn’t paint in public until he’s finished school. It turns into a beautiful story of first love, love for music and art and the rollercoaster of emotions that lockdowns and life throw their way.
Having had kids of similar ages go through lockdowns like the characters in the book, I did find it brought up many emotions of that time for me. Comer manages to capture the low-level anxiety that many felt at this time, the separation and loss endured but does it with a lining of hope as Grace and Crux persevere through the adversity they face.
I highly recommend Grace Notes not just for kids aged 12+ but for adults too, it is my suggestion for our next book group book! I would however offer a note of caution – if you had a child that really struggled during lockdown they still might need a little more time before reading Grace Notes.