Songs for a Teenage Nomad

( 51 )


"So engrossing, so transporting, so moving, I didn't want it to end! A beautiful, lyrical read-I loved every last word of it!"
-Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Immortals series

What is the soundtrack of your life?

After living in twelve places in eight years, Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Another new home, another new school...Calle ...

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"So engrossing, so transporting, so moving, I didn't want it to end! A beautiful, lyrical read-I loved every last word of it!"
-Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Immortals series

What is the soundtrack of your life?

After living in twelve places in eight years, Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Another new home, another new school...Calle knows better than to put down roots. Her song journal keeps her moving to her own soundtrack, bouncing through a world best kept at a distance.

Yet before she knows it, friends creep in-as does an unlikely boy with a secret. Calle is torn over what may be her first chance at love. With all that she's hiding and all that she wants, can she find something lasting beyond music? And will she ever discover why she and her mother have been running in the first place?

"Songs for a Teenage Nomad will send you searching for songs with meaning for the major events of your own life."
-Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs.

"The best kind of song takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It makes you think. You find yourself humming and pondering it for days. Songs for a Teenage Nomad does the book version of this. It's an unforgettable story that music lovers in particular will appreciate, but every teenager trying to find their place in the world should read."
-Stephanie Kuehnert, author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramoneand Ballads of Suburbia

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
""Immediately I was sucked into Calle's head, her music, her story and her voice... I was literally in tears at the end... Read this book if you want something real; if you want it to touch the center of your heart and blossom... If you just want to read a damn good book."" - Lit Bites

""This is Culbertson's first novel and like a mixed tape you play over and over, you can fall into the words and lose yourself in their grip."" - Bri Meets Books

""This novel deftly explores the search for identity that all teens experience, and adds the challenge of finding out who you are when there are obstacles in the way."" - Ms. Yingling Reads

""The use of songs and lyrics to guide the story creates a new rhythm in each chapter."" - Spot to Read

""Both music and words flow beautifully throughout Songs for a Teenage Nomad, written by Kim Culbertson. The songs lead the reader into the story linking the past to the present and in so doing, build a fragile connection between a mother and a daughter. I'm fourteen and my Mom is thirty-nine and we both loved it! We can't wait for her next book!"" - Mother Daughter Book Club

""Wow. This book was just...fantastic. Fexcellent, fawesome, and every other good adjective that starts with 'f.'"" - Frenetic Reader

""I seldom review books for young adults but recently read a YA novel that's so good it had to be shared. Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson [is]... so beautifully written I couldn't resist telling you about it. The plot is exciting, the characters are realistic, and the writing is beautiful and poetic. I highly recommend this book for teens who like to read."" - On Words

""It's an unforgettable story that music lovers in particular will appreciate, but every teenager trying to find their place in the world should read because they will definitely relate to Calle."" - Life, Words, & Rock 'n' Roll

School Library Journal
Gr 8–10—All her life, 15-year-old Calle and her mother have moved from town to town as her mother has moved from relationship to relationship. The only constant in the teen's life is music and the song journal she keeps to write down her thoughts and the memories inspired by tunes she was listening to at different points in her life. Calle has always kept to herself, never forming attachments, but in the northern California town of Andreas Bay, she finds herself making friends and feeling the first stirrings of love for Sam, a boy with secrets of his own. When she accidentally finds an old letter addressed to her from her father, a man who abandoned Calle and her mom when she was a baby, she begins to question everything her mother has told her about the past. Wrestling with these thoughts, the normal highs and lows of high school, and her developing feelings for Sam are enough to send the surprisingly stable teen into an emotional tailspin. She struggles to understand and balance her past and present, and find just where she fits in. This is an appealing, well-written book, and Culbertson captures the rhythms of teen life with realistically developed characters. Calle is smart, likable and genuine, and readers will root for her.—Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews

Calle is attending her 12th school in eight years due to her mother's history of picking bad boyfriends. Though she tries to keep herself separated from her peers, she ends up friendly with her new school's drama kids. She also attracts the attention of a hot-yet-moody jock named Sam. Things are looking up in Calle's social department, but at home she finds a three-year-old letter from her father, hidden by her mother, that leads to her mother's revelation of why they really move around so much. At the same time, Sam is running hot and cold because he has secrets of his own. Amateur, mawkish writing does nothing to help the book's central problems of too many plots and one-dimensional characters. Too often, the voice comes across as melodramatic rather than emotionally mature, especially when Calle opens every chapter with a snippet of her memories. Though Calle credits herself as a songwriter, she appears to have no musical talent, nor do any of her songs ever come to light. Dull, even for die-hard music junkies. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402243011
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 585,150
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kim Culbertson has taught high school English, creative writing and drama for over ten years in both public and private schools and sees her writing as an extension of her teaching. She lives in the Northern California foothills with her husband and daughter, where she loves to drink coffee and look at the clouds.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

...the air smelling like honeysuckle, I dangle my arm from the passenger window, aware only of the honeysuckle air, Indigo Girls on a scratchy radio, and a white sun. And that every­thing we own has been packed into the back of a battered orange moving van...again...

"My dad named me Calle after a cat he had in college that ran away. He really loved that cat. I always thought that was funny since he was the one who ran away from me...and my mom."

"Calle? With just the "e" at the end? Not C-A-L-L-I-E?" the counselor asks.

"Just an 'e.' It's how he spelled the cat's name. The Smith part's easy, though."

Mr. Hyatt, the counselor, shifts in his seat and scribbles some­thing on a yellow legal pad. He has on a Mickey Mouse tie and red shoes. Vans. I've seen the uniform before. Mickey tie because he has to wear a tie but doesn't want students to think he's stuffy. Vans because they're Vans. The nameplate on his desk says "Hyatt Way," like a street sign.

I watch him write, making sure I don't say more than I should. I always give away too much information, and sometimes it gets me in trouble. My mother once said I inherited this from my father. I don't remember him, have never even seen his picture. I take her word for it. And don't ask questions about him. It just makes her mad.

But the talking thing. I'm working on it. I've always admired the type of kid who can sit in silences and not need to fill them. There is one of those silences now.

"Your mom is remarried?" He flips through the manila folder with my name written in black marker on the tab.

"Yeah. Rob."

"Rob," he repeats, over-rounding the letters. Raawwbb. Annoying.

"He works in computers and stuff." Actually, I have no idea what Rob does for a living, but I figure he probably has a computer wherever he works. He married my mom a month ago in San Diego where we used to live. She'd known him only four months. Now we live here. Andreas Bay, a snag in the Northern California coastline. The only thing I know is that he drives a Ford like all the others and makes a bunch of promises like all the others.

"How'd you guys end up in Andreas Bay?" Mr. Hyatt looks up from my folder, his pen poised.

"Same way we find every town. My mom tosses a penny onto a map of California, and we go wherever it lands." He nods and pretends this isn't strange. Usually that story gets at least a raised eyebrow.

He finishes writing, caps his pen, and pushes my new schedule across the desk. "You like to write?" He points at the journal in my lap, with its faded purple velvet cover that looks like corduroy pants.
I instinctively clasp a hand over the cover. "It's my song journal."

"Song journal?"

"Last year, I started writing down memories I get from songs. I hear one, mostly older songs, and I write down the memory it brings. Like glimpses of my life as I remember it. Snapshots." His nod is directed over my shoulder. A black-haired girl in a Betty Boop T-shirt and skinny jeans hovers by the door. I shrug. "It's just something I do."

"Cool. Sounds really cool." Trying too hard.

"My mom's not the type to keep photo books. So I sort of have to keep my own version."
I don't tell him I'm hunting for the Tambourine Man who plagues my dreams.

- -

"You're sure you don't want a nicer shirt to wear?"

In the mirror, I look at my mother, perched on the side of the tub, holding a coffee mug the size of her head. Her dark hair is wet from the shower and combed back away from her face.

I spit toothpaste into the sink. "I like what I'm wearing," I say for the third time. Swirling water around my mouth, I stare at my reflection. Faded blue T-shirt, jeans, brown eyes, shoulder-length brown hair. I look the same as I always do. A blurry, ordinary version of the beauty sitting behind me.

People say I look like her but it's in an out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye sort of way. We both have dark hair and eyes, but her genes lined up in the right order; her dark hair thick, her eyes wide. Her angles drawn straight, her limbs long. My genes used some sort of splatter method for me, with everything not quite in the right spot. People notice my mom no matter what she's doing. If I wanted to be noticed, which I usually don't, I'd have to hire a band and some fireworks.

"First days are so critical," she continues, sipping out of her trough.

I catch her eye in the mirror. "I think I know something about first days."

This shuts her up. For about one second.

"You'll be fine," she says. "It's like riding a bike."

"What is?"

"First days."

I roll my eyes. My mother has a tendency to launch into speeches that start sounding like the bad television she watches. I say nothing. I don't want to encourage her.
"The school is beautiful," she says, trying a different tack.

I nod, leaning in to inspect what looks like it might be a pimple on my left cheekbone. "Ocean view. Not bad."

"You'll really like it here." She tightens the sash of her yellow terry robe with her free hand. "It's a really nice town. Small, inde­pendently owned stores. A real community."

"You've been reading way too many billboards for subdivisions off the freeway," I say.

She frowns into her coffee. "I just think it's really cute. Rob loves it here."

"Rob sits in an office all day. He eats boring for breakfast."

"Calle..." I can see her start to falter, the tears just around the corners of her large eyes.
I back off.

"It's great," I say, and she smiles over her coffee. "Cute." Though I wonder how cute it will be when she realizes that she's not a tourist and that she actually lives here.

I take a last look in the mirror before walking into the hallway for my backpack. She follows me out, her bare feet slapping against the ceramic tiles. "You're sure you don't want to borrow my red shirt with the Buddha? The cute one with three-quarter-length sleeves?"

"I'm sure," I say, slinging my backpack over my shoulder and trying not to roll my eyes. Two years ago in seventh grade, she convinced me to wear a green dress the first day. I spent the next four months as "Gumby." No thanks.

She gives up. "Okay, sweetie." She leans over to give me a peck on the cheek, the one that's not getting a pimple. "Good luck on your first day!"

I open the door and smile back at her. She looks genuinely hopeful for me, the way she always does when we come to a new place. She even packed me a lunch.

"Thanks," I say, holding up the brown sack. Giving a little wave, I pull the front door closed behind me.

Outside, drowning out the sound of gulls, I pull on my head­phones-Jack Johnson's guitar soothing the frenzy of nerves in my gut-and begin the eight-block walk to school, buoyed by the cool sea air. I take in the green hills and the small, flat-roofed houses, and spot a flash of ocean as I round the last corner toward the school. It's actually one of the more beautiful places we've landed, and I sigh, wondering how long I'll get to have this view.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 51 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Everything from the characters to plot was successfully executed...

    Have you ever moved around so many times you never had a chance to make friends? Calle, a down to earth girl, knew firsthand how that felt. Her mother moved them around the country ever since she could remember. Boyfriend after boyfriend, they'd start a new life and once it was over they would find a different, random location. Calle's constant love was her music and writing. I loved the fact that she listened to old school music on a walkman. Every chapter would begin with a quote from her lyrical writing. It helped me as a reader understand Calle's previous experiences. I was engrossed by the story and continually thrived off her believable personality. The greatest traits found in Kim's protagonist was her ability to stay true to herself. Not only did she assimilate well but, she always remained grounded and loyal to her mother. Kim's character development was spot on; each secondary person brought something eccentric to the table.

    I enjoyed seeing Calle interact with the drama kids. Eli (one of my favorite characters), Alexa and the rest of the gang were welcoming and quite entertaining. The sense of stability and friendship was good for her. Also, Cass, an outsider who was considered a freak was a unique, tough cookie. Peeling back her layers piqued my interest in her secretive background. Of course there were also two people I disliked - Amber and Sam. Amber was Sam's girlfriend, her stuck up demeanor made me cringe. On the other hand, Sam at first was a jerk to Calle, he liked her one minute and the next he ignored her. I couldn't stand his hot and cold behavior until the reason behind his actions was revealed. Throughout the novel, there was a mystery behind all the moving around especially, when Calle's father was brought up. I was kept in the dark until about the last sixty pages. The build up was thrilling and reeled me into a state of non-stop page turning. In conclusion, this teenage nomad won me over. Everything from the characters to plot was successfully executed with a balance of family issues, friendship and love.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013


    The result before this one is my room sorry

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2012


    I can relate to this girl (sorta) kept me moving tho.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011


    One of the best book i have read read it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2011

    Kiley and jenn like this book very mujch

    Well it is okay well i would realy know how good it is if it would freaking down load

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  • Posted August 8, 2011


    This book is sadddddd!!!

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  • Posted July 2, 2011

    Loved it!

    I really related to the characters in this book. Its really great i recomend you read it

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  • Posted May 21, 2011


    I am a teenager and i love this book. I can totally relate to Calle about how i have moved alot because of my moms jobs. A must read!!

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Good/Fast Read

    This was a good read. Loved the way the author incorporated song titles within the storyline in correlation to what was happening to Calle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2011

    Great Teen Read

    Songs for a Teenage Nomad is a must read for any teen. The characters seem as if they are plucked out of any US high school. This book is intelligent, emotional, and real.

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  • Posted May 6, 2011

    Easy Read

    This book was an easy read and I read it in about a day; however, the relationships in this novel seem rushed and not fully developed. If you're looking for a mindless read, it's great. But it's not an altogether wonderful book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2011

    memories woven with music

    I'm not sure the music thing worked for me. It just sounded pretentious. I do like the song journal though, and I loved getting to know Calle's history through her memories. It was wonderfully woven together.

    Calle's mom is a bit of a bad influence, hooking up with all those men... and running away when things get hard. It's no surprise when Calle finds the letter from her father and her mother refuses to be honest. It all felt contrived for the sake of plot. Who really does this kind of thing to their kids?

    Calle's relationship with football player Sam is kinda icky too. After the third or fourth time he ignores her or treats her like trash, I started to wonder why on earth Calle bothered talking to him again. I understand that he has his own problems, but that doesn't excuse his behavior, especially since he never really apologizes, or tries to make it right. Calle lets herself be pushed around and it's just sad. Someone who moves as often as she does and has no home stability should be harder than this. On the other hand, she shares an awful lot of personal information with strangers. If the oversharing was a plot sake, it came at the expense of the character.

    Tambourine Man, the song linked to her father, would maybe have had more impact on me had I ever heard of it before.

    In all, not a bad story. It's not one of my favorites, but worth a read. Maybe you'll like it better.

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  • Posted September 13, 2010

    Great Read

    Originally posted at: ***** Why won't her mother talk about her natural father? She was a baby when he left, so she can understand hard feelings. But why would she refuse totally?

    Ms. Culbertson does an excellent job of depicting what teenage life is like. Some have strange hair, some wear certain types of clothing, some talk a lot, some say nothing, and Calle is in the "some say nothing" group.

    She has been moving around her whole life and she's learned to just be a wallflower and hang out in the background rather than get involved, because as soon as her Mom breaks up with her latest new man, they'll be on the move again.

    Whether they are popular or not, several of these students are carrying family secrets with them. Ms. Culbertson's words show you how conflicted some of the students are and how becoming friends can be a challenge. It's also hard for them to know who to trust.

    My first year at high school was my first time in public school; I had gone to a parochial school and wore uniforms for the first eight years. I know just how Calle felt when she entered this new high school. The author expresses the feelings very well, but doesn't make you feel sorry for her character.

    The story has a very ironic ending; one I never saw coming. This is an excellent read for young adults who may be experiencing their own problems fitting in at a new school or who could use some guidance on why a student may be acting in a certain way. It's not just what's happening in school, there are also outside influences.

    This story is a compelling read with a fairly complex plot that flowed well and kept my attention, so I have rated four suns.

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  • Posted September 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    review taken from One Book At A Time

    I was intrigued by this book and how it includes music. I consider myself pretty diverse in my music tastes, so wanted to see how this book fit with that. I was surprised at how easily this novel flowed. And, it doesn't feel you at all even though the lead character is only 14 (or is it 15?).

    Calle was smart and funny. She's got a lot on her plate for someone so young, but she takes it all into stride. She knows this all makes her who she is. I was surprised at her mother. I didn't like how she evaded Calle's questions. For some reason that whole mindset of "I'm your mother and I know best" really drives me crazy. I think Calle was more than old enough to know the truth. The ending was a little more than I bargained for. I wanted them to stop running, but felt the circumstances could have been a bit different. It seemed way too drastic.

    I loved that Calle finally found a place to fit in. She had friends that really cared for her. Plus, she was able to truly open up to some one (and in turn he opened up to her). I don't think she every felt comfortable enough to do that. I'm sure it was a heavy burden to bear. The cast of characters are quirky and each had something to offer to the story. I'm really glad I picked this one and will be looking forward to the author's future works!

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  • Posted September 9, 2010

    Absolutely breathtaking and wonderful

    SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD, by Kim Culbertson, is a marvelous story of a girl finally finding a place to fit in and learning the truth of her past. Culbertson created a fantastic world that focused on music and what it is like to be different and not caring if you fit in. Calle was used to moving around California with her mother and was okay with that until she found people that she truly cared about and wanted anything but to lose them. She finally was able to have a "normal" high school life until she fell in love and discovered family secrets that threatened her relationship with her mother.

    I am the type of music-lover that knows when I like a song but have no idea who it is by or when it was done (or re-done for that matter). Culbertson showed me how music can really affect and dictate a person's life. For Calle, music reminded her of her mother's past relationships and she kept them in a diary like a photo-album of her life. It was fascinating how Calle did not shy away from her feelings of her mother's past husbands/boyfriends, but saw them as events in her life that were stepping stones. I enjoyed getting into Calle's mind. She is a great character that is so strong and full of love. I loved her sass and sarcasm even when she found it embarrassing when talking to Sam.

    There were so many dimensions in this book that were unexpected and kept me glued to the book. I actually finished it in one sitting! Just when I thought I knew what was going on, I was pushed into another direction completely. Nothing was what it seemed and I think that was the point. In high school (and anywhere else for that matter), rumors can blow up out of proportion and family/relationship secrets are wrongfully spread. I was very surprised after peeling the layers of each of the characters down to the core that everyone had issues and no one was perfect. I think, especially in YA books, that this is a great concept to comprehend because that popular boy that you think you have no chance with, may just need someone like you in his life.

    Overall, this was a great romantic and musical read and I definitely recommend it.

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    Posted August 26, 2011

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    Posted December 11, 2011

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted May 13, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2012

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