. Athena's Books: Saved by the Music
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saved by the Music

As a high school teacher, I think I've pretty much seen it all when it comes to teenage behavior. From reading their journals or speaking to them one on one, I've gotten clues about the types of things they deal with on a daily basis, be it from parents, friends, or any other person or thing that are an immediate part of their lives. Most kids are really good, and all you really need to do is connect to them on their level.

Amazingly, about the worst things I've ever experienced are the parent conferences from hell--the kind that come out of the blue when some student stretches the truth to fit their low grades or believes their teacher is utterly unfair. Other than that? A security guard once a yanked a kid out of my classroom for being high. But, thankfully, I haven't had to deal with many teenagers whose home environments or other situational factors have taken the best of them. Of course, I know of some the big issues going on--suicide, depression, abuse and neglect, drug use, eating disorders, cutting. And, the list goes on. Some kids can really hide it well, and it is a shame we can't help all of them.

In Saved by the Music by Selene Castrovilla, readers get an in-depth look at how two teenagers deal with neglect and abuse. At times, it reads like a worst case scenario of what happens to young people when the adults in their lives are detached or overwhelmed with their own problems. Fifteen year old, Willow Moon is looking for a connection. Willow wants to reveal her "insecurities, phobias, and all--and let them all know the truth" because everyone sees her, but doesn't really see her.

Until she meets Axel--a reincarnated version of Jim Morrison from The Doors, not only in looks, but with all the moody, mysterious, philosophical, quiet magnetism of a nineteen year old boy. From the moment they touch hands, the connection is there.

Both Willow and Axel have a lot of psychological issues stemming from their lack of relationship to their parents. Ever heard the phrase misery breeds company? That's what Act 2 is all about. I don't want to tell you everything they suffer together, but just know some very serious issues (like the ones I listed earlier) are surfaced and that they both long to help one another, though they lack the capacity to help themeselves. They are both in need of professional help, yet only one of them is willing to take this approach.

The relationship between Willow and Axel is very tender, and actually, they are close friends more than anything else. They hold one another up in the midst of horrifying experiences:

After a lot of tossing around, I leaned against him, reaching over to take his hand. I circled his wrist and then slid my fingers down to his hand, feeling somehting rough and raised along the way. It was thin line, like a healed cut.

What if my dream was right?

Sick with worry, I finally fell asleep, clinging tight to Axel.

And, the music part? This has to to do with Aunt Agatha. She is the one adult in Willow's and Axel's lives who actually cares and is able to help them in some way. She also has a dream--of refurbishing an old barge as a floating concert hall. Because of this Willow is spending her summer at a Brooklyn marina where she meets Axel, living alone on a small boat named Perchance to Dream. He also happens to be a cellist who plays haunting yet beautiful music.

And, where have you heard Perchance to Dream? From Hamlet by Shakespeare...To sleep, perchance to dream.

There are just so many great things woven in throughout the novel...music ranging from classical Vivaldi to rock legend Jim Morrisson, Shakespeare, and of course New York City. One of my favorite parts of the books is the evening Willow and Axel spend at Starry Nights, an artsy cafe in Greewich Village.
But,what I really love the most is the ending...I think we need a new re-working of misery breeds company. Something more like good company brings salvation. Willow's voice is honest, and although at times I was overwhelmed by everything she and Axel had gone through, I must say everything they speak and think is teenage realism.