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October 9, 2014

Book Notes - Simmone Howell "Girl Defective"

Girl Defective

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Simmone Howell's Girl Defective is a strikingly original, haunting young adult novel with music at its heart.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Sky is original, thoroughly authentic and great company, decorating her astute, irreverent commentary with vivid Aussie references; chasing these down should provide foreign readers with hours of online fun."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Simmone Howell's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Girl Defective:

When I was writing Girl Defective one of the quotes above my desk was from Television: Do I, Do I belong to the night, only, only, only tonight. It seemed the perfect emotional banner for a book about a teenage girl trying to figure out the skin she's in. I wanted to write a detective story and a record store romance and I wanted it to be full of music. When I started writing the novel I was living in a small country town and making frequent long drives to Melbourne with a toddler and a tapedeck. I played mixtapes made by my husband and certain songs worked their way into book. The tapes were all over the place - driving I would imagine scenes led by Jacques Dutronc or Jan & Dean or The Seeds or Jimmie Rodgers. Due to the cyclical nature of my husband's tape-making, certain songs kept coming back and these are some of the ones that stuck.

Wishing Well by The Millionaires
Joe Meek is the patron saint of outsiders. According to Sky's Dad, he had one foot in the past and one foot in the future and no one could hold a pose like that. ( A song can, though.) I came to this song through my husband who always asked for the single for Christmas. It came up on Ebay once or twice, but never when we had money. It is one of the weirdest records I've ever heard, and I think there's something sad and frantic and dark about it too.

Little Omie by Doc Watson
There is a girl in the water. Let me tell you how she got there. An early title for Girl Defective was Girl on the Water. I was listening to a lot of murder ballads and this one - the version I love is on Doc & Merle Watson's Treasures Untold album - always gives me the shivers and makes me think of teenage girls in crisis.

Fancy by Bobbie Gentry
No one can tell a song like a story like Bobbie Gentry. I discovered her because of Ode to Billie Jo and may have watched the Robbie Benson movie when I was a tad too young. I kind of want Fancy to be autobiographical. How else would Bobbie have got those details so perfect: the roaches crawling over her high heels? In my novel this song is wayward Nancy's theme song. She's the bright/dark myth-maker who'll lead Sky to autonomy ...

Neon Lights by Kraftwerk
For Sky in the novel this song is “so long and glittery-sad, it made me feel like I was falling off the face of the earth.” For me it just makes me think of driving and dreaming, clocking k's, knowing where to find the roadside graves on the Calder Highway between Castlemaine and Melbourne.

It'll Never Happen Again by Tim Hardin
I can forgive Tim Hardin his overuse of the term 'lady' in so many of his recordings because of Green Rocky Road and this song. It'll Never Happen Again. It's sad and beautiful. It has a slowed-down, narcotic quality, as if he's sinking as he sings and soon his brow will meet the bar and it will all be over. I found Hardin 1 in a record shop, worried for a moment that it might be a religious record but bought it anyway and was very glad I did.

Orange Skies by Love
This song appears in Girl Defective when Sky's father is mooning over his new relationship. Even though I was a sixties freak throughout my eighties girlhood I didn't encounter Love until I lived in the UK and worked in a record store there. I started with Da Capo and became obsessed with Forever Changes for the duration of my stay. For a long time every letter I wrote started with, “I'm in the kitchen listening to Love ...” I can't decide whose songs I prefer between Bryan Maclean and Arthur Lee. I suspect it's the former's because they describe the dream before it turns.

Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers
When I was sixteen I discovered independent radio station 3RRR. I used to skip school to listen to their sixties show called Some Kinda Fun. I have the Johnny Rivers song on a very old mixtape. It's sandwiched by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's I Just Checked in to See What Condition my Condition was in, and the Downliners Sect doing Be a Sect Maniac. This song was for Gully, the boy in the snout, the other defective detective. I like to imagine him dancing through the credits in the movie of my mind.

Simmone Howell and Girl Defective links:

the author's website

The Book Smugglers review
First Impressions review
Kirkus review
Novel Novice review
Readings review
The White Unicorn review
Wordchasing review

Sydney Morning Herald interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists