Songs for a Teenage Nomad

Songs for a Teenage Nomad

by Kim Culbertson


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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402243011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 09/07/2010
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About 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.

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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Songs for a Teenage Nomad 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
La_Femme_Readers More than 1 year ago
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.
mattandmandy2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
was a great book to read the story was good from the start the ending how ever was a liittle fast and let me down some i thought that the ending could have been so much better. three out of five stars
blodeuedd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were something about this book. How to put my finger on it, it was just good.It's the story of Calle, a girl who truly is a teenage nomad. Her mum finds a guy, lives with him, or marries him, is happy, but then leaves. Calle goes from school to school, and the only thing constant is her journal. There she writes down memories when she hears different songs. Now she is at a new school, she actually gets friends, she falls for a boy, and she longs to stay. Then there is the mystery concerning her father, and why her mum keeps on running.First I must say that I found the name a bit funny, since here it's a boys name, and I kept thinking of my second cousin. Anyway...Calle is a great girl, she loves her mum, even if they move all the time. She is really creative, and smart. She falls for a guy, who I can't make up my mind about at first. But then he also has secrets.What I also like is that it's not too much drama, I mean there is drama, a lot of serious stuff, but not those cliché YA dramas, and not drinking or fooling around either. She is just a normal teenager living at the fringes of High School. But there is one mean girl though, isn't there always one.This books also deals with some big secrets, and slowly she finds out about her dad, her mum, and what is going on with that boy she likes. And in the end I got some tears in my eyes, because it was lovely, happy, and sad too.A great YA book, for everyone, and I really enjoyed her creative side. It made me think what songs I associate for things that have happened.
KObooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story about being true to yourself as well as truthful with others. Calle has moved around all her life. Her father left her and her mother when she was a baby, or so she is led to believe. Her mother dates a number of men who all coincidentally drive Ford model cars. As each of her mom's relationships end, they end up moving to another town. The story centers on Calle living in her current town and how she assimilates and makes friends in her new high school. There are the typical cliques we are all familiar with and the drama group ends up befriending her even though she's not into acting. She develops a crush with the football player, Sam, and he has his own unique story that is revealed. In the end, she finally finds out about her father and the real reason her mother has kept them moving all these years. I liked this book better than I thought I would. Even though the main character is a teenager, I didn't find her whiny/spoiled and she didn't get on my nerves. Despite this girl's problems, she's real, she's strong, and she's as normal as can be expected. Each chapter begins with Calle's journal entry of a scene from her past characterized by a song. This book is an easy quick read for fans of YA fiction.
itsJUSTme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WOW!!!!! Great book!
sithereandread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
pocketmermaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So very lame and boring. Just felt like I was eavesdropping at some high school and their melodramatic lives, with name-dropping of musical artists peppered in for good measure. I was intrigued by the book because I thought it might be connected to music in an interesting way. Not so. Instead I got the story of Calle, who is deeply connected to listening to music on her portable CD player and writing in her "song journal", and her nomadic lifestyle instigated by her mother moving her around (eight times in 14 years) the state of California every time she breaks up with a guy. The story follows Calle's freshman year in Andreas Bay, where she has the usual teenage drama: unrequited love; popular girl as arch-nemesis; overly concerned teacher; mother who won't listen to her; being photographed in her skivvies and pic posted on MySpace. Every piece of the action felt so disjointed, which is odd because all of it is very relatable to teens. I just don't think that transcribing the high school experience for no reason whatsoever makes for very good storytelling. There's the sub-plot, or maybe it's actually supposed to be the main plot, of Calle wanting to find out more about her long lost father that walked out on her and her mother when she was a baby. The conclusion to that is so wildly unbelievable that it was offensive. And I'd never thought I'd say this about a book, especially a book I regard so poorly, but I actually thought all of the supporting characters were way more interesting than the narrator! They all rose above Calle in personality and spunk, and I found myself wishing the story was about any one of them instead.
crochetbunnii on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Calle's search for herself and resolving the mystery of her father. Each chapter begins with a reference to a song (usually 90s music) that may not be familiar to most teens, but I was definitely able to identify each song. The chapter introduction sets the mood for the entire chapter. This was a great read and I like the idea of starting a group for teens to create their own song journals to document the memories they have attached to particular songs.
perpetualpageturner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Between 3.5 -4 starsI picked this book up on a whim to be honest. I never had heard of it but I like music themed books and I wanted to sign up for an ARC tour to see what they were all about. I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would. I really thought it was a well written books for teens (and YA loving adults!) that seemed very real--it didn't seem like the cliched high school experience that never actually really happens in real life. The romantic relationship wasn't that crazed, "OMG I saw him and I loved him and three days later we were in love forever" kind of relationship.I loved Calle. I loved her song journal and I just thought she was refreshingly original. I just felt for her throughout the story--the moving around, the boy troubles, the daddy issues, etc. The girl didn't have an easy life. I just wanted to see things get better for her and I was so angry with her mom for keeping her into the dark about everything with her dad. Give the girl some credit and tell her the truth! I actually couldn't stand her mom. I understand she was being protective but lying is never the right way. I couldn't stand how she kept uprooting her Calle all the time. I was happy Calle started to stand her ground in the end.I loved the soundtrack that went along with this book! At the beginning of each chapter there was a song accompanied by a memory. I loved this idea! I felt like kindred spirits with Calle because I very much have my own song journal in my head where I associate very vivid memories with songs. Let's just talk about what a BANG of an ending it was. That's all I'll say. I still have mixed feelings about it.My final thought: This is a really good (clean) YA novel with a likable main character that is a free-spirited, smart girl! The premise isn't too different and the story, at first glance seems to be nothing special, but while reading it you will find it to be unique and special and explores some real gritty issues in life--absent fathers, dysfunctional families, depression, etc. If you are into contemporary YA and are a music lover, this might be a good fit for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can relate to this girl (sorta) kept me moving tho.
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One of the best book i have read read it
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Jennifer Lamothe More than 1 year ago
Well it is okay well i would realy know how good it is if it would freaking down load
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Gia Vasquez More than 1 year ago
This book is sadddddd!!!
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Kaitlin Farthing More than 1 year ago
I really related to the characters in this book. Its really great i recomend you read it