Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sing by Vivi Greene

Singer Lily Ross gets dumped by her boyfriend, Jed Munroe in a restaurant. Lily met Jed at a party at her manager's Brooklyn loft only a year ago. She had moved to New York from L.A. after her break-up with Caleb. Before Caleb there was Sebastian. Jed is also a musician and their lives seemed to fit together perfectly. Instead Jed tells her the pressure's getting to him and he takes off, leaving Lily a wreck.

Sammy, Lily's best friend since preschool and Tess a friend Lily made at camp when she was twelve are there to help Lily pick up the pieces. Now besides being her friends, they are Lily's paid assistants. Tess suggests they leave the city and spend the summer at her family's cottage on Penobscot Bay.

At first Lily declines. But when she goes into a coffee shop with her bodyguard, Ray and is mobbed with questions about Jed, Lily decides to take up Tess's offer.At the cottage Lily receives a frantic call from her manager, Terry who's concerned about all the negative publicity from her break-up with Jed. Her fall tour, Forever, which is based on songs about her relationship with Jed is ready to go as is her first song off her new album.

The first few days are wonderful until Lily reads about the breakup in the newspapers and discovers that Jed has talked to reporters. On a trip into town, Lily gets into a fender bender with a local - a handsome man driving a pickup truck. She meets the same guy again the following Saturday when Tess takes Lily and Sammy to meet with a bunch of guys she used to hang out with, to go fishing. That guy is Noel Bradley who takes the group out on his fishing boat where they spend the morning hauling in lobster traps. On the boat Noel and Lily become interested in one another. Meanwhile Lily decides not to respond to the texts from Jed.  A night swim leads her to fall asleep on the beach only to be awoken in the morning by Noel walking his dog, Murphy. They talk and Noel tells Lily that he attended college but returned to town where he lives with his father and his younger sister.

After Noel suggests they "hang out" sometime, Lily arranges a secret meeting at night because she doesn't want Tess or Sammy to realize that she's become involved with yet another guy. Noel takes her for a hike and they swim in a nearby pond. Around a campfire, Lily confesses to not being able to write new songs and Noel tells Lily about his mother whom he says is a painter and who abandoned them. On another secret night out, while hauling lobster traps out of the water, Noel tells Lily he was studying art at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design but that he came home. After this night out Lily writes her first new song about beginning a new day and being hopeful rather than about broken relationships and lost love.

Lily soon has several new songs composed: her first one is titled Anchors. After the July 4th holiday Lily's relationship with Noel begins to intensify. Terry contacts Lily and is relieved to learn that she has composed a number of new songs. Lily suggests they record at Tess's house and Terry reluctantly agrees. Terry wants to know who the "anchor" is but Lily not wanting to reveal that the song is about Noel simply tells him it is about the island. However with all of Lily's crew on the island working on the recordings, Noel feels unsettled and unsure of his place in her life. Can Lily and Noel make it work or will their vastly different lives be too much to overcome? Will Lily be forced to choose between her love for Noel and her love of making music?


Sing is a novel whose plot draws comparison to country singer- turned pop star, Taylor Swift, whose songs are frequently about previous relationships and breakups. Sing's cover even suggests Taylor Swift  with its look-a-like complete with blonde hair and pouty red lips. In this version, the famous pop star is fictional Lily Ross whose career has been made by writing songs about her breakups. She's been with a number of men over the years and her latest love, Jed Munroe also a famous singer, has just dumped her. Hoping to find a bit of peace, Lily decamps to her friend Tess's cottage on an island where she quickly falls in love with the best looking guy in town, Noel Bradley. Noel is a rugged artist with a soft heart, who has returned to his family's home to care for his younger sister and his father after their mother was placed in rehab for doing drugs. Greene brings in the love triangle when Jed visits the town to try to win back Lily setting up a conflict that Lily must deal with. Which life does she choose and will Lily Ross ever find happiness and true love?

Lily Ross is a mostly likeable character but she's predictably self-centered and even somewhat shallow. Her friends take her to task when it's discovered she's been having a secret relationship with Noel Bradley and lying to them. Tess in particular feels betrayed because she considers herself Lily's friend, "the only people who don't kiss your ass and tell you what you want to hear all the time." Tess tells Lily that she's not ready for another relationship.

The reappearance of Jed Munroe in her life leaves Lily intensely conflicted. She struggles with the discovery that part of her still loves Jed. "I love the way he knows what he wants and doesn't apologize for being who he is. I love our life together, how seamless and complementary it can be." With regard to Noel, Lily feels that she is making the same mistake once again. But Maya who runs a yoga class on the island tells Lily that she's waiting for her life to be easier. When Lily tells Jed she won't be getting back together with him, he tells her she'll never be happy. But Lily knows she has at least broken the cycle of her music being all about breakups. She also knows that music must remain a part of her life. "No matter how much I try to make things work with Noel, no matter how much I love being here on this island, could I ever truly be happy without making my music, seeing my fans, singing my songs on tour? I can't just pretend that's not a part of me anymore."

At first the solution seems to be to have Noel accompany her on tour, because Lily doesn't want to feel the pain of loss when she leaves Noel behind on the island. But when Lily reveals Noel's identity during an interview and the paparazzi arrive,and then the truth about his mother is made public, Lily begins to realize just how different their lives are. Lily's mother reminds her of the value of sharing her music with others and that this is something special. Lily and Noel repair their relationship and Lily tells him that her time on the island has not been a waste - that she has discovered that her music allows her to connect with others. "My songs are the way I've always made sense of the world, the mistakes I've made, the people I've met and what they've taught me. I'm not done with any of that. I don't know that I ever will be." Lily comes to realize that life isn't full of "perfect, happy endings" but that people do go on, just as she will without Jed and without Noel.
Perhaps unwittingly Greene has written a novel that portrays the reality of the current dating culture for many women in the 21st century: meet a man, live with him and then break-up with no sign of commitment or marriage, a year or two or more of life wasted and a broken heart.  Although the characters in this story are supposedly famous contemporary musicians, the relationships in their lives and the modern problems they face are very much similar to those of everyday people. Their relationships, although subject to the pressures of fame, parallel the patterns seen within society in general today. Many women go through similar experiences of dating for a few weeks/months, then living together without moving towards any sort of commitment. That this can be harmful to women whose hearts and bodies are made for something much different is effectively demonstrated in Sing. When Jed dumps Lily, she looks at the keys to her apartment which Jed just handed back to her she states, "...and when I think about how many times I've done this, handed over my heart, the keys to my home, to my world, I feel dizzy. Over and over again --it's not enough. I'm not enough. "  Lily believes the reason her relationships crash is because she's the problem but by the end of the novel her friendship with Noel has helped her rediscover who she is and that she can be happy in life.

For fans of contemporary romance and singers like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, Sing will resonate with them and be an enjoyable, fun read.

Book Details:

Sing by Vivi Greene
New York: HarperTeen   2016
279 pp.

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