Publication Date: March 15, 2011
In A Song Apart by Jeffery H. Baer, Kevin Derow is a college student whose guilty pleasure is the music of the rising bubblegum pop star, Shannon Kistler. When Shannon sees him wearing her concert t-shirt on a Manhattan street, she shouts out to him starting a chain of events leading to love and exposing a shady scheme that could threaten them both.
There is vibrancy to the way Baer writes. His characters are alive, breathing and vital. Kevin is a kid who feels out of place in his own life. When we meet him, Kevin is going through a day in of classes and the things kids do in college where he’s wearing a t-shirt featuring Shannon Kistler, a songstress that he likes and that so baffles everyone around him. Shannon is comparable to Demi Lovato or Veronica in that she’s the sort of pop star 10-year-old girls love. A girl from one of his classes stops him on his way out and asks about the shirt, his younger siblings outright ridicule him. On his way home he meets a homeless man who asks him for change. Kevin apologizes for not having anything to give him, and the man goes into a monologue that foreshadows what is to come in the story. The homeless man tells Kevin, You don’t gotta be sorry for nothin’. People always gettin’ into trouble ‘cause they sorry for stuff they can’t control … (Kindle location 70).
When Kevin and Shannon get together, the objections to their relationship are downright unreasonable. I wondered while reading if Baer was using this text as a commentary about how much society is in our daily life and how little they really should be. Kevin’s boss, Dan, instructs him not to wear the shirt again because his co-workers won’t take him seriously, but in a real-world sense, does it matter what he’s wearing when he works the sort of job he does?
As much as I liked Kevin, I found Shannon to be a caricature. She was well-written, likable and worked well in the storyline, but 100 authors writing a character sketch of a pop star could have come up with the same character. She is a spokesperson for Autism and Asperger syndrome, and we’re left with a sense that perhaps one of the characters is suffering from Asperger syndrome but the answer is left hanging. I would have liked to have known more.
A Song Apart is less a love story and more a human story. I was surprised to learn that Baer is a first-time novelist. His narrative style and plotting speak of a practiced hand. Each scene is a stepping stone to the next in a very logical sense.
If you enjoy human stories, read an excerpt and buy A Song Apart by Jeffery H. Baer on