NOTE: For the next few weeks, we will be publishing book reviews on this blog. All writing updates will be published on Twitter in the meantime.
An eARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of this book was provided by the author for review.
Let me come home to you.
When Son meets Alice again after she disappeared from his life four years ago, he can’t wait to impress her. He is the oft half-naked bassist of indie rock band Trainman after all. But adolescent pain lingers, and headstrong actress Alice isn’t about to let Son off the hook for breaking her heart. Can he prove to her, to himself, and to people who matter, that he is capable of being someone she (and everyone else) can count on?
I have a confession to make: While I’ve always loved Jay E. Tria’s writing (You Out Of Nowhere and Majesty being two of my all-time favorites), I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the Playlist series. I’ve always found the books uneven; even my favorite book in the series (Songs to Get Over You) seemed a little bogged down by the band drama. Over the years, however, my perception towards Trainman the band had changed; I chalk it up to seeing the band members grow as characters and love interests in the Summer Crush series of short stories.
So when I was introduced to the character of Son in Jay’s contribution to the Promdi Heart anthology, I was curious. Here is a band member whose love life was separate from the Jill-Kim-Miki-Shinta love quadrangle, and he had a love interest who was genuinely interested in him as a person. I loved it so much that when the story ended with Son and Alice being separated from each other, I sincerely hoped that Jay would write more about this couple.
Voila, Songs You Come Back To is that book.
We meet Son and Alice years later, with him as Trainman’s bassist and her as a struggling actress with an ever-changing job history. Their character development, as both individuals and lovers, drives the plot of the book; it’s hard to imagine what’s going on without delving deep into their motivations. Son may be a rakenrol guy in his own right, but he’s also easily distracted, and sometimes unable to fulfill his promises to his own band. His love for Alice is initially driven by regret, but over time they become each other’s source of stability. It’s interesting to note, however, how Alice’s love changes Son in a way that transcends dependency, especially seeing as how Son learns to make good decisions for himself, with or without her.
“You will go in there and you will show them you’re a star. Yes, it’s possible that you might not be the star they are looking for. Would be mighty silly of them but if that’s how it goes down, that’s okay.”
Alice is the more driven of the two; her determination as an actress leads her to take on smaller and smaller jobs in between auditions. She’s nobody’s dream girl, and her ambitions sometimes clash with Son’s, but she wants nothing the best for both of them. You can definitely watch the sparks fly whenever they’re together, whether they’re clashing about who left who behind or giving each other pep talks. While Alice’s love for Son teaches him to be a better man, his love for her pushes her to set aside her fears and go for exactly what she wants, whatever it takes.
“It’s in the getting used to having someone to tell important things like that to, in the boyfriend context. And it’s you. You know me too well.”
There’s a generous amount of intimacy here–and not just with the love scenes!–that you, like Son, will almost forget that there’s band drama waiting in the background. (Don’t worry, Trainman non-fans–the band drama isn’t as prominent as it is in the previous books!) For these characters, actions are more powerful than words, whether they’re sharing a pot of arroz caldo or making life-changing decisions. Everything is done with love, and with the way Jay writes them, it definitely warms your heart.
There are little Easter eggs for #romanceclass fans here, like guest appearances from Arabella and East Genesis Project. You’ll be inspired to go back and re-read the Summer Crush series to get the in-jokes!
All in all, I really enjoyed this book, and I appreciated Jay’s more focused approach to this installment of the Playlist series. I’ll be definitely looking forward to the next book! (And maybe give the rest of the series another chance, because who knows?)
Tune in tomorrow afternoon for a very special cover reveal!