Title: Gracie’s Song
Author: Michelle Schlicher
Publisher: Self published
Source: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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“Everything can be undone.” That’s what someone tells Gracie Brannen, but she’s doubtful. After graduation, she walked away from everyone she knew with barely a word. Ten years later, she’s back. Even as familiar places and faces bring back old pain, Gracie finds hope in rebuilding old ties and forging new ones. Maybe everything can’t be undone, but perhaps everything can be overcome. (Source: Goodreads)
Gracie walked away from her family, her boyfriend – her entire life – 10 years ago, but when he mother dies she has to return home and face the people she left behind. Gracie tries to rebuild the relationships she ended when she left but it won’t be as easy as just showing back up and apologizing – especially not when it comes to her ex-boyfriend, Finn, who she walked away from without a word of explanation. Can Gracie fix things before she loses everything for good?
Gracie’s Song is a fun, fast read about a girl who realizes the mistakes she’s made in her life, and while she knows she can’t fix them all, she at least wants to make up for them in some ways. I thought that made for a fairly interesting story. The trouble with Gracie’s Song is that it’s not a bad book, it’s just got so many problems that at a certain point you just can’t overlook them all. The idea behind the story was good, the use of flashbacks was well meaning but not used properly, the romance had all the right bits but was also misused, and most importantly the action is confusing and choppy. I wanted to enjoy Gracie’s Song and for a long time I did, until enough piled up to make me disappointed.
I think Gracie is a great lead. She has a troubled past, something she hasn’t let hold her back, and instead she’s used it to make herself stronger. I loved that, Gracie has this fierce strength in her which I could see, but I’m not sure Schlicher really utilized fully. I would have liked to have seen more of Gracie striking out on her own and not needing Finn – even if she wanted him. She lived her life without him for 10 years and I think she could have gone on without him, but even when she says she’ll fight she just fumbles and pines for him. I think Schlicher built Gracie into someone strong and then kind of flopped on the ending.
There’s a pretty large supporting cast in this book. There are some okay characters, though not a lot of them are really developed beyond a sort of generic set of humble, country folk, nice small-town-er vibe. I don’t think I loved anyone in this book, and I’m often a huge fan of supporting players over the lead even. I liked Cayla, Gracie’s niece, a lot but she was still just a sort of generic young girl. I think Gracie’s brother, Nick, would have been a really exceptional character but we don’t really get enough of him. Romantic lead, Finn, was kind of bland and I didn’t see that much of a spark between the pair. The romance, for me, was so unimportant compared to Gracie and her sister, Hannah’s, relationship which got most of the focus but seemed to be less important to Schlicher than Gracie’s need for Finn.
The fact that I didn’t feel any spark between Finn and Gracie made the romantic parts a little tedious for me. I think Schlicher had a lot of the right elements for the romance to work for other people but I don’t know if she really used them well. This pair has such a rich history obviously, and it would have been more interesting for me to have seen them struggling with that when they’re supposed to be going out together, instead we just find them out to dinner or hanging out, without any sense of the struggle they went through to get there. It seemed like Schlicher often focused on the more mundane aspects of this then really hitting any of the emotional highs or lows of the relationship. At one point we find the pair out at some friend’s house having a BBQ, but we don’t seem them negotiating this meet up, which would certainly require some talking between the two of them. I think that really made the romance miss the mark for me. On top of that I would have liked to have seen Gracie’s Song, the song the book is named for, used later in the book. This should have been part of the emotional climax of the book – Finn wrote a song for Gracie – instead we see this not even halfway through the book. It just feels like there ought to have been build up to that moment.
The narration switches between the present and a series of flashback sequences about Gracie’s childhood and teen years, this can make for an interesting sort of suspense, I don’t think Schlicher really used it that well though, and instead made kind of a muddled mess of her storytelling. The flashbacks seem to come in such a random order, there’s nothing significant about them but there always should be. We meet Nick at some point and Gracie realizes “he’s the boy from the fair!” but it just leaves you wonder “what fair are you talking about?” Because at this point in the book we haven’t gotten the fair flashback and we should have to make this moment have some significance. We get this flashback way later in the book and it just sits there meaning absolutely nothing anymore. There’s a lot of this choppy, uneven, random cutting in the book. There were times when I thought the pages were in the wrong order because I’d suddenly jumped from one scene to another without transition, explanation, or anything. There were pronouns being thrown around without identifying that “he” no longer meant Nick, it now meant Finn. The whole thing was just confusing.
I want to stress that I really liked the idea behind this book. I love the redemptive quality of Gracie’s journey – it is a journey and an emotional one at that. I think Schlicher really developed a fantastic back story for Gracie, I just think there were a lot of mistakes that could have been fixed in the editing process. If you liked contemporary romances this is a book worth looking into, it’s an impressive read for being self published, just be cautious as it can be confusing at times.