Author(s): Barry Jonsberg
Rob has a huge crush on the new girl at school. But Rob is painfully shy and suffers severe panic attacks. How is her heart to be won? Another wonderful and heart-warming comedy drama from the award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet. Good evening, Rob. Your first challenge follows. These challenges have nothing to do with impressing Destry Camberwick. They are all to do with Rob Fitzgerald impressing Rob Fitzgerald. Bear that in mind, at all times. Challenge 1. You will enter the Milltown's Got Talent competition. This gives you over a fortnight to polish your act and work out strategies to overcome panic attacks. I would wish you luck but the point of this challenge is that you don't need it. Introducing Rob Fitzgerald: thirteen years old and determined to impress the new girl at school, but it's a difficult task for a super-shy kid who is prone to panic attacks that include vomiting, difficulty breathing and genuine terror that can last all day. An anonymous texter is sending Rob challenges and they might just help. Or not. Beautifully moving and full of heart and humour, A Song Only I Can Hear is a delightful novel about dreaming big, being brave and marching to the beat of your own drum.
Ruth's review: Rob Fitzgerald, 13, falls in love the day Destry Camberwick walks into class. Painfully shy, Rob suffers from acute panic attacks if he's the centre of attention so, with the help of best friend Andrew, he devises a variety of plans to make Destry notice him.
First up is volunteering for the poisoned chalice position of goalkeeper in his school's hopeless soccer team for the annual match against posh St Martin's School. With an anonymous texter sending challenges to encourage Rob to "toughen up", a variety of issues then present themselves, such as chaining himself to the supermarket railings in a protest against animal cruelty at the local abattoir.
Relationships are pivotal to this heartfelt story about marching to the beat of your own drum. There's Pop, a foul-mouthed old war veteran troubled by visions, whose every second word is "blankety" and whose favourite sport is to guess who will be the next person to die in the Old Farts' Palace where he now reluctantly lives. Rob and his grandfather are very close and their conversations are both hilarious and touching.
Jonsberg, who wrote the darkly comedic The Whole Business with Kiffo & the Pitbull for older readers, writes with tenderness and perception about Rob's plight and delivers a kicker of an ending that I didn't see coming. With themes of anxiety, bullying and LGBTQI, this novel is highly recommended for mature readers aged 12+