Review: Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Review: Harmonic Feedback by Tara KellyHarmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
Published by Henry Holt BFYR on May 25, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 278
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn't have friends. She has, as she's often reminded, issues. Drea's mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on "a touch of Asperger's."

Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea's preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.

It's obvious that Drea can't hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she's found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?

I actually have no idea how Harmonic Feedback ended up on my to-read list. Very few people I know have read it, and the ratings those folks left are good but not great. There are some people who, if they like a book, I’ll definitely add it, but none of them have read it. I wasn’t that excited about the book either, because the cover looks so depressing. Turns out, though, that I read all of it in one day, and I completely loved the voice and the ship’s so sweet.

Drea has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and General Anxiety Disorder, among other things. She’s on a rotating regimen of drugs as psychiatrists try to find the right combination to help her live her best life. Unfortunately, a lot of the drugs kill her appetite, leaving Drea so thin that she has to deal with constant assumptions that she’s anorexic. (Remember, guys, don’t comment on people’s weight.)

In Harmonic Feedback, Drea and her mom have just moved in with Drea’s crotchety, no-filter grandmother, the latest in a string of moves. Drea’s tired of moving, and she’s tired of watching her mom pursue unhealthy romantic relationships. Drea and her grandmother are constantly at odds, since both of them only say what they actually mean and a lot of that isn’t nice. Drea also struggles with her mom a bit, because her mom always wants to warn people about Drea’s Asperger’s, and she feels like that implies there’s something wrong about the way she is, which Drea doesn’t think is true or fair.

I adore Drea’s voice, a lot. Though I don’t have Asperger’s, I can relate to a lot of the behaviors and attitudes. Though, obviously, unlike Drea I have a very well-developed sense of irony and sarcasm. However, like Drea, touch often makes me deeply uncomfortable (being touched by people I don’t know upsets me), small talk annoys me, and when I was teen my desperate desire for friendship was buried underneath a resting bitch face. So yeah, I relate to Drea in a lot of ways. I was clapping along to her commentary on small talk and on how things like pretending to like someone out of politeness aren’t actually nice.

Drea makes her first ever friend in Naomi, the brash, adventurous, risktaker across the street. Naomi is Drea’s opposite. Very sexually active and attention-seeking, Naomi uses drugs recreationally. The two of them are actually really terrible for each other, because Drea feels embarrassed that she has no romantic/sexual experience and Naomi feels constantly judged, since Drea’s incredibly blunt. They both have no one else, since Naomi’s driven away everyone else and Drea’s hard to get to know.

Naomi’s the part of the book that didn’t particularly work for me. She brings the melodrama to the yard. Naomi’s straight out of a CW show with classic daddy issues. I think what really bothers me about their friendship is that Drea never realizes that they had an unhealthy relationship. View Spoiler »

A comment early on makes me think that Drea’s likely demisexual: “I didn’t think I felt that kind of attraction toward Naomi, but I’d never even felt what could be considered a crush. People were like wallpaper unless I knew them. Physical appearance was just that—an appearance.” She does fall in love and have sex in the book, and she enjoys it, but she only develops feelings for Justin after getting to know him.

Justin and Drea initially get off on the wrong foot. Drea has become very suspicious of people who reach out to her, because she’s been the butt of jokes so many times. Justin truly does want to get to know her, and he’s just really super sweet. I also love the love triangle that isn’t; this girl Kari has a crush on him, but he shuts her down, even when he thinks that Drea hates him. Justin’s a genuinely good guy. In fact, if it weren’t for his dark past, he’d totally come across as too wonderful of a person.

I don’t have that many thoughts about the music stuff. It definitely seemed legit in that I didn’t understand a lot of it. I don’t listen to much of the same music as Drea and Justin do. I did really enjoy the way that Drea experienced music, though.

Harmonic Feedback is an under the radar title for readers who are interested in books about mental health, music, or sweet romance.

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