I honestly think I damaged a few brain cells trying to decide how to rate this book, and I'm still not sure my choice is correct. But whatever, I can't waste any more time wondering what to do about these books that are really really good for the first three quarters and then just lose it towards the end. It seems like every book I've read is like that lately, some were good enough to keep a high rating regardless (The House of the Scorpion), and others weren't quite as successful (Slated).
I've had Harmonic Feedback on my bookshelf for over a year and I kept putting if off because I'm not a big fan of books about music - I only like music when I can actually hear it. However, the story has very little to do with music beyond being about a girl who wants a career in sound design. So I'd say that if the music theme is putting you off, you have nothing to worry about.
I remember in my review of Holier Than Thou saying that the characters lacked charisma and I think this novel is a perfect example of characters which just ooze that charismatic factor. I don't mean they're super-good and always likeable, but I really cared about what happened to them, they were important to me with funny and different personalities that had me charmed from the very beginning. Ms Kelly doesn't use your standard array of characters, everyone has their faults but everyone is given a chance to act like a person rather than a mere stereotype - even the girl who at first seems like the typical pretty but mean high schooler.
Though I know living with autism is a day-to-day struggle, I also have to admit that I was originally put off by this aspect of the story too. I expected something that tried to be deeply meaningful and touching that would just make me want to barf, I expected the author to attempt to manipulate my emotions so I pitied Drea. I was completely wrong. As someone with first-hand experience of ADHD and Asperger's syndrome, Ms Kelly skillfully showed the awkwardness, the misunderstandings and the frustration which comes with such conditions, but she does so in a very funny way. From Drea's cringy moments in school to her outrageously inappropriate grandmother, this story is full of laughs.
One of my favourite things about the characters is that the author does something not too typical of YA - unless you're Sara Zarr or Siobhan Vivian - and turns slut-shaming on its head by having Drea's best friend be the "school slut". Naomi is reckless and totally horny, a lot of the other girls at school don't like her because of her reputation - and yet, the reader does. I did. I'm really glad the author didn't feel the need to draw that invisible but damaging line between the "good girls" and the "sluts".
Another thing I really enjoyed about this view of the world through the eyes of someone with Asperger's is the way it allows us to see the ridiculousness of humanity at times. Drea can't understand why people don't just say what they mean, why the words coming out of their mouths aren't always what they're thinking. It's a rather interesting look at human behaviour and how we believe the normal people are those who know how to lie and interpret one thing from something entirely different. Drea's perspective was very refreshing to me and something I've never got from other books about people with autism (etc.).
All these positives prompted me to round this book up to four stars, and because I also want people to read this. However, the ending really let this book down... so so much, I can't even begin to express how disappointed I was with it. It was like all of a sudden the melodrama switch had been flicked and the novel exploded into a frenzy of tragedy. Some people won't care and may even cry at the ending, but I was too shocked at how quickly the story changed to be upset at what actually happened.
So I've warned you. How much this will affect your ability to enjoy the novel will obviously depend on your tolerance for melodrama. If you're unsure, please just try and grab this book from a library instead of spending any money on it. I want you to get acquainted with the brilliant characters and humour before the story falls to pieces, I really think a lot of people will be surprised by how good the first three quarters if this are, I'm just surprised Harmonic Feedback hasn't been more widely read by now.