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Book Review: The Piper's Son

It's no secret we're pretty big Melina Marchetta fans here at YA Highway, so when we heard about her most recent release, THE PIPER'S SON, we began to salivate. After all, TPS takes us back to Melina's SAVING FRANCESCA world and the struggles and triumphs of Thomas Mackee, trouble-maker and unlikely friend to SF's title character. But woe to us when we realized TPS would not be released in the U.S. until March 2011! Lucky for us, brilliant and beautiful YA Highwaywoman Leila lives halfway around the world and was kind enough to ship a copy to me from New Zealand. I actually squealed when the book came (and not only because of that so-sexy cover).

Cover copy: Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stand, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he walked away from Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

In a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

THE PIPER'S SON is not a book easily explained by a compact blurb on the back of the cover. It's not exactly Young Adult. It's not exactly Adult Fiction, either. An epic family saga like this defies the conclusive boundaries offered by these genre boxes. TPS is about family and friends, love and bitterness, war and reconciliation. It's about lost and found weddings and lost and found funerals. Music and dishwashing and alcoholism and football (soccer). About being ignored and about being revealed. About being wrong and about how that's okay because wrongs can be made right.

TPS takes those obnoxious familial tics we suffer through for our loved ones and makes them complex and comfortable and achingly beautiful so that as we read we want these people - these people who know and love us well enough not to hide themselves with us - nearby so we can read bits and sentences and paragraphs aloud to them. Because of the connections: the connection between the reader and the story, between the reader and their own family, between each character in the novel they can identify in their life.

This is what Melina does best. She writes the characters we are, the characters we know, the people we love so that we must love her characters. Even when they are jerks, even when they are the most annoying creatures we have ever come into contact with. We love her characters because they are resilient, because they come so close to being romantic but fail - and then prove to be more romantic than we could have hoped. We love them when they unabashedly yearn, when they regret. These are not perfect characters; there are no Mary Sues here, no obvious heroes.

Tom and Georgie, the two narrators, are messy, come from a messy place and project messy onto others. Mourning for uncles and fathers, ruining relationships, navigating friends are all in a day's work for these two. But within that mess we recognize ourselves and our own families. Within that mess are moments so tiny, so tender, that we know we wouldn't give up the mess or its rewards for any vision of clean and perfect we could be offered.

THE PIPER'S SON is not a small book, nor is it simple. It is complex and multi-dimensional, with a cast that quietly marches off the page and into your heart.

Melina's writing is beautiful and carefully constructed, as sparse as can be in a story so sweeping, giving the reader just enough of each plot, of each character's story arc, to allow the reader to connect. Development is masterful: ghosts are as real as the living. The girl communicating by e-mail from a foreign land as close as the girls who collects and tends to her friends like a shepherdess. The experienced contemplate and confuse love as often as the young. Women cry and men cry. Readers cry.

THE PIPER'S SON is a book for people who love, who mourn, who complicate and trip over themselves, who triumph. If you're in the right place, pick up a copy. The rest should put this novel at the top of their to-buy list for next Spring.
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. Ahhh!! Cannot wait for this book. *A*

  2. how well articulated is this review! I read The Piper's Son and just was completely floored and at a loss to even know where to begin writing up how I felt.

    The US release does seem like a long way away when we have had it since March...

    and, the cover is completely sexy :)

  3. I want this NOW!!

    Looks like I'll have to make a friend in NZ.

    And, yeah, that cover is hot!

  4. Must. read. this!!!
    Great review, Kristin!

  5. Thanks. :)

    Nomes, I felt the same way! So I just rambled a bit about how incredible the book is and hoped some of my review made sense. :D

  6. Great review. I absolutely loved this book. It's pretty much perfect. I was so happy to revisit these characters but now I want book 3, which I think there ate jo plans for :-(

  7. Excellent review! I just finished reading SF, TPS and JR all in a row (read FOTR lat summer) and am drained but happy. Marchetta is such an amazing writer and you captured exactly why she is so succinctly in your review! Thanks for spreading the love for her work!


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Item Reviewed: Book Review: The Piper's Son Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook