Publisher's Weekly Review - Kalyna's Song

Publisher's Weekly
Reviewed by: Publisher's Weekly

Music permeates the life of young singer Colleen Lutzak, whose search for acceptance catapults her from small-town Alberta to Swaziland in Grekul's debut YA novel , which greatly benefits from the author 's own familiarity with the Ukrainian-Canadian community.

Following the death of her beloved music teacher, Sister Maria (an Auschwitz survivor), and a less-than-stellar first year at university, Colleen leaps at the chance to spend a year at Swaziland's United World College ('I didn't feel like I belonged here. I thought that if I went away... I'd become a different person, and I'd finally fit in,' she muses). Throughout a lyric though occasionally solipsistic odyssey, Colleen contemplates the meaning of her Ukrainian-Canadian heritage, befriends a Swazi prince and witnesses a variety of triumphs (she's in Swaziland when Nelson Mandela is freed from prison), prejudices and personal tragedies.

After the death of her mentally disabled older cousin, Kalyna, Colleen returns to Canada to reconcile with her high school nemesis and her family. Though an abundance of references to Ukrainian traditions, foods and culture may overwhelm and distract some readers, teens struggling with questions of identity and belonging will empathize with Colleen's uncertainties and admire the grounded heroine who emerges.

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