Booklist Reviews

Ella and Claire share a bond that seems unbreakable until a mysterious musician materializes in their midst. Narrator Claire and her friends grasp their glorious youth with both hands, relishing nights on the beach, spontaneous song, and the wonder of being alive in the universe. In the middle of one such reverie, while Ella is at home, they meet ragtag musician Orpheus. Claire holds up her phone and urges her friend to listen, and after a few notes, Ella is hooked. Orpheus, too, is hooked on Ella, and their intoxicating, all-consuming passion draws Ella away from Claire. Powerless, Claire stands by, witnessing her friend's meteoric romance, her untimely death, and Orpheus' devastating failure to retrieve Ella from Hades. Almond suffuses this retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice with Northern England slang and lush, musical language, which captures the heady rush of reckless youth. Though the beautiful prose occasionally overpowers the characters, that murkiness contributes to the mythic otherworldliness of the story. Patient readers will likely be transfixed by this rhapsodic modern retelling of a classic tragedy. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Set on Britain's northeast coast, Almond's contemporary-set story echoes that of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: teen Ella falls in love with Orpheus; they're wed; Ella dies; and Orpheus retrieves her from death only to lose her at the last minute. Almond's prose has always been intense, sensual, and vivid: here his very subject matter is intensity of feeling with a capital F.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

A celebration of the wonderful madness of youth, and of the bemusing, soul-confusing power of aesthetic experience, lies at the heart of Almond's lyrical, contemporary-set take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Set on the northeast coast of Britain, Almond's story echoes that of the myth: teen Ella falls in love with Orpheus; they're wed; Ella dies; and Orpheus retrieves her from death only to lose her at the last minute. Almond's narrator, Ella's best friend Claire, takes up her pen to bring her "friend into the world for one last night then let her go forever," recalling the spiky conversations, parental disagreements, and school assignments that are part of her life and Ella's. But she strives most to convey the experience of hearing Orpheus's music, the inchoate yearnings and ecstasy it evokes in herself and her friends: "It was like being blessed," she writes. "Like truly becoming ourselves. Like being loved." Almond's prose has always been intense, sensual, and vivid: here his very subject matter is intensity of feeling with a capital F. Cumulatively, from one page to the next, physical, emotional, and aesthetic bliss becomes ever more potent: a foundation for adult awareness, for the joy that lies in art, nature, and love. deirdre f. baker Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.

Kirkus Reviews

Award-winning British novelist Almond (Kit's Wilderness, 1999; The Fire-Eaters, 2004, etc.) mines the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in this modern-day love story, told in the voice of Claire Wilkinson, a 17-year-old poet. Claire loves her childhood friend Ella Grey, and they are "young and bright and free" with their kisses and sleepovers until…"Ha!" Everything changes one spring day when Claire encounters Orpheus, a wild, black-haired, lyre-playing wanderer in a purple coat and Doc Martens, on Northumberland's Bamburgh Beach. Claire calls Ella on her cellphone from the boozy bacchanalian beach party so her friend can hear the mesmerizing songs that Orpheus plays, enchanting the dolphins, the sea, even the pebbles and sand…and soon wishes she hadn't. When Orpheus sings for Ella Grey, she falls madly in love with him, sight unseen. "Go to Hell, Orpheus," Claire whispers. The rest of the tale mirrors the myth: Ella and Orpheus marry, Ella dies by snakeb ite, and Orpheus enters the beastly Underworld to rescue her from Death, a section of the book effectively distinguished by black paper with white type. Almond brings his hypnotic lyricism to this darkly romantic tale that sings of the madness of youth, the ache of love, and the near-impossibility of grasping death. (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Almond (The Tightrope Walkers) gracefully interfuses ancient archetypes with contemporary situations in this retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Set in northern England—a landscape familiar to Almond's fans—the novel is told from the point of view of Claire, a restless high school student, whose dreams and imagination reach beyond the confines of her cold, dreary surroundings. "I wanted to experience that thing of being just me, moving on my own across the earth," she laments. During a much-anticipated trip to the beach with some close friends, Claire is enchanted by Orpheus, a wandering musician whose beauty and skills with the lyre seem otherworldly. When Claire's best friend Ella instantly falls in love with this stranger, Claire has misgivings; after it becomes apparent that Orpheus is just as smitten with Ella, Claire agrees to help them secretly elope, not knowing the height of wonder and depth of despair that will follow. Like Orpheus's music, Almond's lyrical narrative will sweep readers on a journey to unearthly, mysterious realms and back. Mythological characters come to life while remaining enigmatic enough to set imaginations spinning. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

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School Library Connection

In this modern retelling, Ella meets Orpheus, a wandering musician, along the shores of northern England; she immediately falls in love, and marries him. Later, Ella is bitten by snakes and dies. Orpheus must find Death's entrance to the Underworld, and bring Ella back to the living. While Orpheus is in the Underworld, the text is written in white on a black background. This modern story remains true to the original; Ella is pulled back to the Underworld just as she and Orpheus reach the gates because Orpheus turns back. This is a book that may interest a few readers who enjoy mythology, but many will not connect with the setting.

- Grades 8-12 - Deborah Creamer - Additional Selection

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 9 Up—An innovative and dreamlike retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in modern-day Tyneside and Northumberland and told in Almond's lyrical, distinctive prose. Narrator Claire has a passionate relationship with Ella, whom she has known since they were five years old. They are part of a "beautiful friendship group" of like-minded teenagers who gather to share their dreams and artistic efforts. When the mysterious musician Orpheus appears on the beach, the teens, as well as all the local wildlife, are enchanted by his weird and lovely music, but the one most enamored of Orpheus and his music is Ella, who hears him over Claire's cell phone. Ella and Orpheus fall in love and marry, but Ella dies of a snakebite on their wedding day. The novel follows the original myth fairly closely as Orpheus goes through river gates into an underworld where he encounters monsters and the rulers of the underworld. This is an impressive update of this often retold story, with artsy teenage characters and a lovingly detailed Northumbrian setting. Some parts, such as Orpheus's death at the hands of crazed women emerging from the sea and references to his male lovers, will resonate more strongly with readers familiar with the original myth. VERDICT Teen readers of a literary bent and mythology enthusiasts will love this latest work from Almond.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

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Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

When they first hear Orpheus, Claire and Ella are entranced. Everyone in their group of friends can do nothing to get his song out of their heads. Ella, however, seems to be just as magnetic to Orpheus. The two are inseparable; haunted by their instant, deep obsession with one another. When Ella decides she must marry Orpheus as soon as possible, Claire is left with the pain of losing her best friend and first love. After tragedy consumes them all, Orpheus must have Claire's help to try to retrieve Ella from beyond Death. Printz Award-winner Almond delivers another haunting, intricately-woven piece of literature. A Song for Ella Grey follows the classic tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in the modern world, with all the heartbreak an intense young love can bring. The North English accents can be difficult to follow at times, but most readers should quickly adjust. The choice to write from the perspective of the classic heroine's best friend and hopeful lover brings an added sense of desperation and loss to the story. Many teens will relate to this desperate love and relish Almond's beautiful words. Fans of the author's other works will not be disappointed by this latest, lovely offering. – Kate Conklin 5Q 4P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.