Saved by the Music by Selene Castrovilla
Publisher: WestSide Books
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Reviewed by Fern
Willow, 15, is sent by her unstable mother to spend the summer on her Aunt Agatha’s barge in Rockaway, NY. As Willow and Agatha work on what appears to be a hopeless project, converting the barge into a floating concert hall, Willow finds herself both attracted to and repulsed by the hired hand, Craig. At the same time, she is intrigued by her emerging relationship with mysterious and reclusive Axel, who lives on a sailboat docked close to the barge. Frustrated by Axel’s lack of romantic interest, Willow finally accepts Craig’s advances but finds herself a victim of sexual assault. Axel intervenes before Willow can be seriously hurt and then assists her through the process of the investigation. Unable to face her aunt, Willow goes back to live with Axel and learns that he cuts himself to deal with the pain caused by his own abandonment and abuse.
Saved by the Music is a powerful story about two lost souls who find strength, power, and comfort in the presence of one another. Although the title might lead you to believe that it’s music that saves them, it is in fact the close connection they share that provides an unforgettable journey readers are sure to enjoy. Dark, gritty, and brutally honest at times, you’ll get a whole lot more than you bargained for as you delve into the pages, which is always exciting in cutting edge YA fiction.
The story is told through the voice of fifteen year old Willow; a girl who views herself as ugly on the outside as she perceives herself to be on the inside. She can never be beautiful enough, thin enough, smart enough, or interesting enough. A summer spent on her aunt’s barge is intended to help but, thus far, it only fuels her resentment of her emotionally unstable mother and unhappy home life. It’s not until she meets Axel, an eighteen year old with issues of his own, that she emerges from her shell and begins to view the world through less jaded eyes. He’s beautiful, mysterious, and so sad she can’t help but question why. As a near tragedy disrupts their lives, the truth is slowly revealed, and it will take understanding, foresight, and love to circumvent fate and create a path to a brighter, happier future.
The material presented in Saved by the Music is dark, but I didn’t find it extreme or overwhelming. While rape is a very upsetting and difficult topic to broach, Ms. Castrovilla does a wonderful job of ensuring you get the ugliness of the act without alienating the reader. There are other subplots that are equally serious, including suicide and depression, but they are handled with tact and grace, so that the act isn’t glorified but treated as it should be, with total seriousness and respect.
This is definitely a book for the 14+ age range. The subject matter is something that anyone younger could possibly have an issue understanding or relating to. With that said, Saved by the Music is a thoroughly engaging story that I very much enjoyed. Willow is a fantastic heroine, while Axel is perfect as the young man who isn’t entirely as he seems. As the mystery unfolded, I became captivated, and couldn’t stop reading until I finished. I can’t wait to read more from the library of Ms. Castrovilla and am eagerly looking forward to her future works.