Cover Image: Every Time You Hear That Song

Every Time You Hear That Song

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Darren Purchase makes wanting to get out of her hometown her primary personality trait. An aspiring journalist, she lives with her mother in rural Mayberry, Arkansas and works at a local gas station. When Decklee Cassel, her favorite country singer—and a girl who got out of Mayberry and never looked back—passes away, she leaves a scavenger hunt for her fans. Anyone who finds her clues will find $3 million and a last album. Hoping the cash prize is her ticket out, Darren heads on a madcap road trip across the South with her coworker, Kendall. Though she’s worked with him for years, this is the first time she really gets to know Kendall, a willing partner-in-crime who helps Darren reframe her relationship to Mayberry. The scavenger hunt is the perfect adventure, and I loved following along.

Alternating chapters flash back in time to the perspective of Decklee Cassel herself. These chart her career, from her teenage escape from Mayberry to her success as a Grammy and Oscar winner. Decklee wants fame and legacy more than anything, a drive that threatens her relationships, especially her professional and personal partnership with lyricist Mickenlee Hooper.

I was spending all day waiting to pick this book back up. There’s country music, a road trip, a mystery, complicated hometown feelings, and the entire thing is very queer. Voris creates big dramatic scenes (including one at the Indiana State Fair) and small moments, and the book surprised me in the ways it surprised me. I predicted the big twist in the mystery, but not how Voris handled it and its effects. Though I liked Darren’s slow claiming of her bisexuality, I wasn’t sold on the romance—again, until the end, when things came to an unexpected and satisfying resolution.

The book took me back to the feeling of humid desperation summers took on when I was a teenager, and Darren reclaims that feeling much as I have. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book as much a decade ago. I love reading YA as an adult and reintroducing myself to past selves.

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I absolutely did not expect to devour this book in less than 24 hours, but once I started reading...I could NOT stop. What a ride!

There were so many things I loved about Every Time You Hear That Song, but I don't want to spoil anything -- I'll just say that one of the dual perspectives is an adult for most of the book, so I would say that this is a slightly more mature YA novel than I was expecting.

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This country music inspired story is one of both love and betrayal. The stories are told split between Darren who is trying to find the time capsule of her favorite artist and the artist decades in the past. It shows how sometimes your idols aren't the people you think they are and sometimes the best things are already right next to you. I really loved this book.

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This book was such a rollercoaster!

I was not expecting to dislike the historical FMC as deeply as I did by the end.
The callous way she sacrificed every person who cared about her on her way to the top just made my soul ache.

There are twists in this book you will not see coming! I gasped, cried and yelled!

I have to say, the introduction of the mom’s illness and then mom is suddenly living in Nashville with no resolution to her illness feels like a gap in the plot or character development.

The current day FMC is relatable and loveable. A bit naive but relatable.

I would recommend this as an inspiring YA romance with zero smut. Medium pacing that picks up in the second half.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this book!

This is the story of two small-town, ambitious girls and their journey to escape the perceived shackles of that life in search of a bigger one. They want success, love (both are queer--tough in small-town Arkansas), and hurt people in the process of chasing their dreams. I loved this book a thousand times more than I thought I would, based on the synopsis. The plot and pacing are spot-on, and the treasure hunt occurring in the present day made for a fun roadtrip storyline. The character development was terrific all around, especially for a relatively short book. I loved the duel POVs and settings (one in the past and one in the present), and the whole thing had Evelyn Hugo+Daisy Jones and the Six vibes, which were 10/10. My high school students will love this as it has the compelling story/pacing to keep their attention, but also tackles important issues they can relate to like dreaming of a bigger life after high school, feeling pressure to hide one's full identity, and the highs and lows of first love.

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A wonderful journey about heroes not being who you thought and self discovery.

Darren wants out of her hometown, just like her favorite musician Decklee escaped decades prior. When Decklee leaves a quest after her death, Darren and her co-worker Kendall take off on a journey across the South to find the prize, but the answers aren't all what Darren expects.

This is told in split-POV: Darren going on the journey and Decklee's rise to stardom. I liked the back and forth and how Darren's journey follows the steps Decklee took. I love how Darren makes some significant self realizations about her sexuality (and Decklee's), her feelings about home, and her priorities. I even appreciated the ending.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and publisher for the opportunity to read and review!

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A huge thank you to the author for approaching me about reading and reviewing an early copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

You don't have to be a fan of country music to enjoy Every Time You Hear That Song by Jenna Voris—I'm certainly not. Even though this is a massive love letter to country legends and their impact on fans, it's so much more than that. It's a queer coming-of-age story wrapped up in a road trip with dual POVs to give an added layer to the story.

Having Decklee's point of view through her career helped round out the story for me. Knowing that Darren and her mom strongly connect to Decklee Cassel was great and all, but seeing how Darren views her vs how Decklee actually was and seeing her do what she thought she had to to get where she ended up was so much more impactful that if we hadn't gotten her POV at all. She may have clawed her way to the top from nothing, but at what cost?

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It's the perfect read to kick off summer and what's typically considered road trip season. Darren and Kendall had such great chemistry and the slow build was totally worth it. I loved seeing Darren wrestle with her queerness and all the little things along the way that helped her realize that it's okay to be bisexual. Even in a small Arkansas town that seems to defeat you before your life has really begun. The road trip and scavenger hunt not only helped Darren learn more about her favorite musical artist, but it helped her learn more about herself and what she wants out of life.

I won't spoil more than I already have, but I think this is such an impactful read. Especially to young queer girls. The ending isn't the payoff I wanted, but it was incredibly realistic and a breath of fresh air, honestly. Not everything has to end up with a flashy ending. Things turned out well in the end for Darren and cast, but it didn't exactly go where I expected. That said, I highly recommend this for fans of Brian D. Kennedy's A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY.

CONTENT WARNING for talk of cancer and potential relapse, parental abandonment, and homophobia

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This was such a fun read! I love road trips and I love scavenger hunts. Darren and Kendall are great, I loved their chemistry together. I really liked the dual timeline narration between Decklee and Darren, seeing Decklees career through both of their eyes. I really did not want to put this down. You get small town slice of life and big city adventures, I was raving about this book before I even finished it.

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Everytime You Hear that Song is the perfect book for fans of country music, roadtrips, love, history, mysteries, and books like A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy. This book features stories of love that span decades and features a fun trip and story about uncovering the past & being who you are. If any of
This appeals to you then you’ll need to pick up Everytime You Hear That Song.

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Huge thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Teen/Viking for allowing me to read this early!
As a Bi women who was born in the south and grew up in the Midwest, with a STRONG love for country music, I knew instantly by the title (A clear and amazing reference to Brandi Carlile’s song) that I had to read this book. It was everything I was wanting and more. Adventure, coming of age, and the struggle of many Queer artist of the past and present. I think the book’s title is a great reference, Brandi Carlile is an openly gay and successful country artist and shows that as time goes on we will always find space to be our most true and authentic selves. I highly recommend this book.

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THOUGHTS

It has been a long, long time since I read a 10 out of 10 book for Gateway Reviews. Since summer 2022, in fact. This book won't be for everyone, but I adored these hard characters, these bristly women who dare to be ambitious when the world tells them they shouldn't be. And I appreciate the bittersweet sentimentality here, too--that longing for home even when you know home can't give you what you need.


PROS
Dual Timeline: A dual timeline is so very unusual in YA, and I really appreciate not just that Jenna Voris has opted for this mode of storytelling but that she uses it so well. Told both in the present, as Darren tries to track down Decklee's time capsule, and in flashbacks starting with a young runaway girl in 1963, this book hits all the right notes of bittersweet, regret, and big dreams.

Small Town Shout-Out: Darren Purchase might not be a girl meant to stay in a small town, but that doesn't mean she won't miss it. Darren loves her town in all the ways she can--her friends, her neighbors, and the quirks of knowing everybody and everybody knowing you. She and her mother are really close, too, and so the fact that Darren wants to break out, to leave these things behind so she can pursue her own dreams comes with a not insignificant amount of regret. What's best for her means leaving people and places behind that she'll miss.

Daring to Dream: I know a lot of people won't like Darren (and I'm not sure they're really meant to like Decklee). Darren has hard edges. She's ambitious, and she's prickly. And people don't like hard women who dare to want things, even in fiction. Darren might not get everything right, but that's part of being human. She wants big things from life--more than her small town can provide her. And she really wrestles with the implications of leaving her roots behind. Darren is bisexual, and she's not afraid of that... but she is afraid of what embracing this identity might mean in her rural American hometown. She knows how hard that can be--how impossible her happily-ever-after is if she stays. She sees all the negatives of the world that brought her up, and she's still sad to leave it behind. Because, as she says, there are great people in the South. There are people like her, like her mother, like her neighbors and her friends--just people being people, not caught up in cycles of bigotry and hate. She wrestles with the choice she knows she'll have to make when she leaves her hometown--give up her accent or keep it on, deny her roots or take on the burden of the assumptions the world will thrust on her. Darren loves her town, but her town doesn't have room for somebody like her. And that sucks. Because you shouldn't have to leave where you grew up just to be safe and whole and happy.


CONS
Lost in Time: Darren and Decklee both dream big, but reading Decklee's story, clawing her way up to stardom, felt kind of bittersweet. Because it feels like something that is, really, lost in history. It doesn't feel like the kind of thing that could happen to a poor girl from the rural South these days, no matter her aspirations, and that makes me sad. Times are changing. Opportunities change, too. Stories like Decklee's did happen... but I'm not sure they're happening anymore.

Name Confusion: Decklee's two closest (and, really, only) companions are Mickenlee and Markell, respectively. And these names are pretty similar. A few times, I had to go back and reorient myself because I had read the wrong name--and trust me when I say these characters really aren't interchangeable!

Let-Down: This story has a lot of build-up, and the payoff is all character, heart, and soul. The plot payoff isn't really something that exists. Don't get me wrong. There aren't loose ends. There are just disappointing ends (which may, in fact, be realistic). If you're looking for a fun sort of quest story, chasing down a lost time capsule, you'll get a bit of that. But that's not really the heart of the story here, so reader be warned.


Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10/10
Fans of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game will like this new hunt for a legacy. Those who adored Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo will like this bittersweet dive into a larger-than-life star.

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Thank you so much for the ARC of this book! I was hesitant reading this book because it is a little outside of the genres I usually read and an author I'm not familiar with but I was super impressed! Loved all the characters and storyline. Definately a must read.

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Okay, so, not thrilled with that ending. Ugh. But that aside, this is a pretty remarkable book. Told in dual timelines with dual narrators, it’s a story about two queer, small town Southern girls, the life/love choices they make, and the music that influences their lives - one starting in the late 1960s, the other today.. (And there’s a twist I realized around the 70% mark - I felt so proud of myself).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

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4.25 stars

This book is marketed as "Dumplin'" meets "Daisy Jones & the Six", but it actually reminded me more of a YA "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" plus Swiftie Easter eggs. It's got dual timelines (my fave) and dual POV, following both Darren in 2024 and Decklee from 1963-2024.

17-year-old Darren is a girl who's always felt trapped by her small town and whose favorite musician's (Decklee Cassel) work is an escape for both her and her single mom. When Decklee, dies and leaves behind an unreleased album and a cash prize for her fans to find in a lyric-based scavenger hunt, Darren jumps at the chance. She heads off on a Southern roudtrip with her coworker and maybe-more, Kendall, leaving Mayberry (yes, the town is actually named Mayberry) for the first time.

Decklee (not her real name, but she is also from Mayberry), runs away from home to seek her fortunes in Memphis in 1963, determined to make a name for herself in country music. Once she begins songwriting with Mickenlee Hooper, all her dreams are within grasp. But as the girls grow closer and Decklee's stock rises, she realizes that getting everything she wants may require losing parts of herself.
Meanwhile, Darren and Kendall grow closer to each other and to the prize. Free from the confines of their small town, Darren realizes that some of the limits she feels there may be more self-imposed than anything, and that despite her role model's example, making it out of Mayberry and making it big don't guarantee happiness. 

I was expecting this to be a lighthearted romcom, but the ending had me crying my eyes out, so beware of that, but man. It was so good. Such a unique and emotional take on small towns and the expectations we set for ourselves and others, and the time capsule scavenger hunt was so fun. While some of the resolutions were more bittersweet than lighthearted, all of the characters felt very true to themselves, and I appreciated the different depictions of queerness through the decades. Thank you to Penguin Teen and the author for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review!

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I thought this was super cute :) I have been to Nashville and Memphis, so could get the feel, and it reminds you a little of Dolly Parton or any of the other classic country women who came from nothing. Interesting way to work in LGBTQ side as well. I was pretty impressed with myself when I figured out something before it was revealed ;) That's all the hint you get

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This book is the biggest hug you could ask for. It is beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time and who doesn’t love a good road trip story.

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Thanks to Penguin Group and Jenna Voris, along with her lovely publisher for sending me an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my thoughts about the book in any way.

Every Time You Hear That Song is a wonderful, queer Dumplin’ meets Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac (this song officially belongs to this book!). A story told in between two POVs, that of Darren Purchase, a teen with a big dream from the small town of Mayberry, and the country pop icon Decklee Cassel following her rise to fame. Darren dreams of getting out of Mayberry and it’s why she’s followed the Decklee’s music and career her whole life, idolizing her for getting out and leaving everything behind. But when the singer passes on, she leaves a little quest; a hunt for a hidden time capsule: a memoir of her life, for a price that could get her out. And when Darren sets out to find it along with her friend Kendall, she soon uncovers more about Decklee’s legacy, one that will teach her to set out and tell her own story.

I didn’t expect to shed tears over reading such a bittersweet story for what I thought would be a cute romcom. I had fun from the back and forth between the two MCs’ POVs because it emphasized a story of love and loss and what it realistically means to be queer, career women over the decades. It talks about how beautiful, yet selfish love can be. The queer rep was definitely done justice because the feelings surrounding bisexual and lesbian women were articulated well. I got hooked on how emotional this story was, especially towards the end. It made me feel grief and regret as much as it made me laugh. It was not an ending I would’ve wanted for the characters, but it is certainly one sentimental conclusion to a story carrying so many feelings.

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Nothing could have prepared me for just how much I loved this book and how I read it at the exact right time in my life. Jenna Voris has captured something about growing up in a small town (and even more specifically for me, growing up in a small town in Arkansas), and looking to get out. Every place this book stopped had nostalgia for me, both geographically and metaphorically. On top of that, it’s full of yearning and heart and ambition and the character growth that comes with facing all of that. I cried while reading the very first chapter and I cried again throughout the book, both for the things I miss and for the things I’m so grateful I have. This book was a worthwhile read, and one that I think was necessary for me, and I’ll carry it with me just like I do the town I grew up in.

If it’s not already clear, this book checked a lot of boxes for me. It travels from Arkansas to Memphis, TN to Nashville, TN, to Mississippi, and back to Arkansas, and every stop along the way I found memories of my own to accompany those of Darren and Decklee. Both because of the sheer heart that Voris has written into this story and admittedly my own personal experiences, it felt like something I was experiencing along the way, even as I’m currently 5000 miles from home. It can be difficult to find genuine and heartfelt stories of queer teens in the South, even as that’s a reality that I’ve been living my entire life, and this book truly captures that.

EVERY TIME YOU HEAR THAT SONG is the story of two queer women (really teenagers, although Decklee grows up over the course of the book), on two similar paths from the same place. Both Darren and Decklee’s stories are what they are because of the people around them, and every supporting character is placed in the story with care and with purpose. The main characters screw up more than once, and we see them grow in the ways that they respond to friends and family actually trying to help them. Every little piece of the characters and their stories in this book seem to weave together to create an interconnected web that’s only visible once every strand is in place.

I could honestly talk for hours about this book and all the things I love about it. It’s a delightful exploration of queer identity, of fame and idols, of friendship and heartbreak, and the idea of home. I can’t say that I’ve always loved growing up and living in the South, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to appreciate the complexity and the wealth of experience and people that live here, and I think that this book does a similar thing, forcing the characters to not just see the bleak vision of a small town they’ve conjured without also seeing the reality of where they are. It’s also just a really fun time to see Darren and Kendall trying to solve a scavenger hunt, and the lyricism in it all.

In short, I loved this book, and I can already tell it’s one of my favourites that I’ll read this year. It made me nostalgic and homesick in the best way possible, and I loved every moment I spent reading it. Basically, I can’t recommend it enough.

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In Every Time You Hear That Song, the author weaves a captivating narrative that seamlessly intertwines the lives of two women across decades, connected by the melodies of country music. Seventeen-year-old aspiring journalist Darren Purchase finds herself on an unexpected road trip with her coworker Kendall as they chase the clues of a scavenger hunt triggered by the unveiling of a country music legend's empty time capsule.
The characters are developed well, and the author navigates the intricacies of their emotions with sensitivity. The storytelling is immersive, with each chapter revealing layers of the characters' lives, dreams, and the price they paid for success.
While the scavenger hunt premise adds an element of excitement, the pacing occasionally falters, causing moments of disconnection between the past and present narratives. Despite this, the novel remains a compelling exploration of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of fame and the enduring impact of love across generations.
Every Time You Hear That Song is a poignant celebration of complicated women, authentic living, and the timeless allure of country music. The author delivers a heartfelt coming-of-age story that transcends its genre, leaving readers with a deeper appreciation for the enduring power of storytelling and the melodies that shape our lives.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Absolutely everyone should read this book, immediately (if not sooner). The mystery of Decklee Cassel and Mickinlee Hooper and the time capsule and the new music and the road trip... Everything about this was heartfelt, intriguing, heartbreaking, and ultimately just perfect. Loved it.

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