Review: All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

Friday, June 14, 2013
Title: All Our Pretty Songs
Author: Sarah McCarry
Genre: young adult, supernatural, horror
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 240
Published: expected July 30 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

The first book in an exciting YA trilogy, this is the story of two best friends on the verge of a terrifying divide when they begin to encounter a cast of strange and mythical characters.

Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.

And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.

 "Do you know what it's like to be a girl pieced together by appetite and impulse?"
- All Our Pretty Songs, p.18

This review is probably going to end up quite short -- I don't have a lot to say about All Our Pretty Songs and almost none of what I do have to say is good.  

All Our Pretty Songs has a great premise. It also can boast some truly amazing prose. When the mood strikes/the planets align/etc,. McCarry can create some truly visual and lovely writing. But that's only about 30% of the time. The other 70%? You get overwrought melodramatic teenage angst all over the place. You can't win them all, right? But it doesn't even seem like McCarry is trying half the time. 

The characters are flat. Underdeveloped. One-dimensional. And? They're pretty obnoxious, or boring, or obnoxiously boring. Unfortunately for us, the readers, and for the book itself, the awesome premise isn't enough to make up for the less-than-inspiring way it is carried out. The lack of a plot for a quarter of the novel makes for a lot of aimless stream of consciousness narration from our unnamed narrator - none of it particularly riveting or engaging. 

McCarry wants this novel to be the punk retelling of Orpehus. And she is not too subtle with presenting her theme throughout the short story contained in All Our Pretty Songs. As the characters struggle to decide what they value most, what they will sacrifice, the suspense does build into a somewhat interesting final conflict. But it's not enough to save the rest of the novel from being utterly underwhelming. It's too little too late and the end is too confusing (and open-ended!) to provide any real sense of satisfaction.

Ashleigh Paige's comparions of All Our Pretty Songs with the lyrical and creepy Imaginary Girls could not be more accurate. McCarry wants that magical realism Nova Ren Suma crafts so easily and so well to work here, badly, and it just never solidifies into anything remotely like it. It's a failed Another Little Piece. It's a brave attempt to create something original and suspenseful, but with the weak supports of cardboard characters and a flimsy plot, All Our Pretty Songs just doesn't cut it. The prose can be outstanding, or laughable, and McCarry never finds a happy medium. It's great or it's just bad.

So it boils down to one star for premise, one star for the prose that I was impressed with for All Our Pretty Songs. I really don't see how this could be expanded another two books - the plot is thin already - and I doubt I will be reading to see what happens next. Maybe McCarry will try to tackle a new myth, but high expectations won't be a part of it.

I guess I had more to say than I thought. This was a severe disappointed. An intriguing premise meets underwhelming execution.


  1. I've found that when a book description has to TELL you it's exciting ... it's not going to be. Maybe that's just me being cynical, but it usually just means "overdramatic, irritating, and insipid." *hops off soapbox*

    More positively, I love the title and the way the vines on the cover interact with the typography. :)

  2. Aww, what a shame that this one let you down. I was never drawn to it, so it doesn't affect my reading choices too much, but it IS really hard to achieve that fluid writing that Suma does so effortlessly. Great review, Jessie! :)


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