Review: Songs That Sound Like Blood by Jared Thomas, Jess Gately

Title: Songs That Sound Like Blood

Genre: New Adult Fiction

Themes: Coming of Age, Change, Coming Out, Racism

Favourite quote: “[Dad] always said that people are supposed to move, that it recharges and calms us down. He explained that our ancestors formed our country perfectly to give us everything we needed. Water and bush tucker were only in certain places so that we had to move, and that the emu and kangaroo move flat out so we have to chase them.”

A review by Jess Gately

Songs that sound like blood tells the story of Roxy May Redding, newly graduated from high school and desperate to ‘make it’ as a musician. But for Roxy to move from her small country town in Port Augusta to the big city of Adelaide, she’ll have to face her family and friends who think she’s too big for her boots, find the money to move and survive, and deal with being just another face in the crowd. Things aren’t made any easier when she begins to discover her sexuality and to top it all off, the music program she’s enrolled in is being called into review by the University.

Jared Thomas’ latest novel is a tale of bravery and transformation as Roxy struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants in a world that’s not shy about telling her what it wants from her. She must confront expectations surrounding her heritage, her future, and her ‘place’ from family and friends alike.  

Whilst Roxy’s relationship with her father is strong and he is supportive of her ambitions, her relationship with her Aunty Linny, although loving, is somewhat more unpredictable and at times downright volatile. Thomas perfectly captures the nuances and conflicting emotions we all face when it comes to dealing with difficult family members. Roxy must learn how to navigate her family and love them despite their faults.

Likewise, Roxy’s relationship with her best friend Helen provides an interesting and alternative face to the persisting idea of ‘change’ presented throughout the novel. As someone who moved overseas for several years, it was interesting to note Roxy’s inability to recognise how much she had grown and changed, and likewise how other people reacted to this- even to the point of assuming she had fundamentally changed after only a few weeks of living away. The difficult dynamic surrounding shifting roles in both family and friendship circles, when a person outgrows the role they have played for any given length of time, was subtly and a cleverly weaved through the story.

Finally, Roxy also faces the ongoing pressures associated with her race and sexuality on a societal level. Ranging from slurs in the schoolyard to systematic inequality, Roxy is forced to become the person she wants to be in the face of political stigmatism. In a conversation with her student support officer Roxy declares, “I was paid out for being Aboriginal and that was bad enough. I didn’t even realise I was gay.” Roxy’s story is about the importance of being true to yourself, even when other people may not like it.

The intricate layers of Roxy’s life and the changes she faces are neatly wrapped up in short chapters that make for easy, bite-size reading. It’s the sort of book you can pick up during that ten-minute break- and you’ll be taking every ten-minute break you can get! There’s a lot of big and complex issues tackled here but in the hands of Jared Thomas, they are presented to you like canapes on a plate- ready for you to tackle one mouthful at a time.

 

This book was provided free of charge to Underground Writers by Magabala Books for the purposes of reviewing. 

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