As teenagers, we often find ourselves filled with a deep longing, a desperate desire to be something, anything other than what we are. We spend our days dreaming of freedom and our nights awake, wasting time, bored, wanting. The teen years are, supposedly, the best years of our lives, although it doesn’t always feel that way.
A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond manages to capture these emotions perfectly, and roll them all together into something I wouldn’t really call a book, or even a story; it’s an experience. I found myself with an ache in my chest as I was reading it, and I realised that I was feeling what the characters did. I realised that I had finally found a book that put into words some of my thoughts, and in all honesty, it shocked me (in a good way).
A Song for Ella Grey follows two best friends, Claire and Ella, who are inseparable until a strange, beautiful musician called Orpheus appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and falls head over heels for Ella, who falls right back. Claire is left behind, a helpless witness to a love that becomes so powerful, it can only end in tragedy. She is the one to tell their tale, which is based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Almond’s writing really is something to envy. It is truly magical; his descriptions alone transport you from your warm room to the blustery beaches of the North. The words seem to leap off the page and spark to life within you. As I read, I got so completely absorbed in the writing that I forgot where I was and what I was doing. I only thought of the story and what was going to happen.
I will say, however, that this book is not for everyone. It’s strange. It’s lyrical, like the song in the title, and utterly indescribable. The book’s style is something else, something you have to let yourself drown in if you want to truly appreciate it. Don’t let that put you off, however; this book is special in a way that everyone takes something different from it, whether that be a different opinion, individual meaning or thoughts about it.
My favourite part of this book had to be the mythological aspect of it. Almond takes a run- of- the- mill town in the North and turns it into a place of dreams, of adventure and love. The dreamlike, unrealistic aspect we associate with Greek myths is combined with the gritty, wild tone of real life and somehow, it works perfectly. You really feel for the characters, for their heartaches and struggles as they come of age.
However, you don’t have to be a teenager to enjoy this book. You just have to have an open mind, a love for words and plenty of free time... because trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.
David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey, winner of the Guardian children’s fiction prize 2015, is available from the Guardian bookshop.