Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Books that Rock: Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak

All Cameron Wolfe wants is to get the girl. (Yeah, in that sense too, but also to understand her, to hear her, to know her.)

She’s got class, kindness, pride, a sense of humor. She can make a harmonica howl, and then smile with straight white confidence.

Her name is Octavia. And she’s even willing to talk to him. When she’s over at the house. Visiting his brother Ruben. Her boyfriend.

Yes, it’s a problem.

Maybe the first one ever between two brothers who have always been thicker than blood. Cam never really minded living in the shadow of Fighting Ruben Wolfe — a talker, a natural, an instant favorite with every woman he meets.

But now Cam wants something that his brother already has. And he doesn’t know how to make it his, or what it will cost.

To get the girl, he’s going to have to find out.

I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but Australia has been raising up some amazing authors in the young adult field, like Melina Marchetta, newbie Craig Silvey (just read his Jasper Jones and it was brilliant), and, of course, the now practically legendary Markus Zusak. Before there was the messenger or the book thief, Zusak brought us the rough and tumble Wolfe family, most notably Cameron Wolfe, the baby of the family. The first and only book I’ve managed to read about them has been Getting the Girl, as my library doesn’t carry the previous two books in the trilogy (though I ordered the compilation book Underdogs over the weekend —  so excited for it to arrive).

It may be the fact that I was running on less sleep than normal, or the melancholy music that I was listening to on my i-pod as I read (more on that later on in the Music Monday portion), or the spartan writing style Zusak employs, the way every word is carefully selected and arranged for the greatest impact, but Getting the Girl gutted me. It cut me to the core and several scenes set tears streaming down my cheeks. It may have been any of those things and it may have been all of those things, but mostly I think it was simply that something in the character of Cameron resonated with me.

This book is for anyone who, like Cam, have felt like the underdog, the loser, and have been “hungry to be somethin’, to be  somebody”, to be a winner. I only wish that I had Cam’s tenacity, his brave spirit that never gave up until he achieved his goal and did the things that needed doing and said the words that needed saying to those who needed to hear them. He gave me hope that one day I can be and do the same.

I have every confidence that this book and this character in particular is destined to be one that I turn to again and again, much like I have with Melina Marchetta’s Taylor and Jonah of Jellicoe Road fame and Tom of The Piper’s Son (and that’s a high compliment indeed).


And now on to the Books that Rock portion of this post, where I provide a soundtrack of sorts that describe events occurring in the chosen book (be warned that spoilers may occur in the song descriptions). If you haven’t yet read the book, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the music.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I was listening to a rather melancholy playlist made up mostly of Ben Howard and Passenger tracks, with a bit of Matt Corby and Laura Marling tracks thrown in for good measure. If you’ve never heard of any of these artists, do yourself a favor and listen to some of their work — all of them are incredible writers with the ability to move you to whatever emotion they’re driving at in each song. You don’t even have to go too far to do so, since three out of four artists will be featured below.

Fairytales and Firesides by Passenger (Mike Rosenberg)

Ah, the wonderful Mike Rosenberg (also known as Passenger) doing what he does best:  sharing his music out on the streets. He even funded his last album purely through the profit he made from busking the major cities around Australia. Cool, eh?

Anyway, think of this lovely song as the kind of the theme song for the novel. I think (in an abstract sort of way) it describes how Cam sees himself as an underdog and a loser, but longs for something different and better.

I See Love  by Passenger

This song describes that brief, shining moment that Cameron and Octavia are together and happy. Even the last line (Vultures and black crows/perching on sign posts/circling like ghosts/so we’ll just keep our eyes closed) fits the coming doom Cam anticipates when he finally tells Ruben that he’s seeing Ruben’s old girlfriend.

Light Home by Matt Corby

Matt Corby was apparently the runner-up for Australian Idol way back in the day, but I know him from Communion’s Flowerpot Sessions album, where he sings this very song.

If Light Home isn’t a song that makes you want to cry in your cornflakes (but in a good way, if there’s such a thing), then I don’t know what is, so I thought it was a fitting song for when Cam’s eldest brother, Steve, rips out Cam’s heart with his words to Cam and Ruben behaves so cruelly. The line “The light of home/burned out and dark now/You held me captive/a thief who takes it all/A love not to return” pretty much sums that whole section up.

Master by Ben Howard

This song describes one of my favorite scenes in the book, where Cameron’s sister, Sarah (love Sarah!) shows him the drawing she’s done of him and encourages him to keep on fighting for Octavia. This sets him on the path to “okayness,” where he begins to live out the line “master of your own heartbeat/be the change that you long to see.”

Honorable Mentions:

The Wolves by Ben Howard (the Wolfe family – The Wolves, get it? Aren’t I clever?)

London by Ben Howard


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