Book Reviews

Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

  • Second chance at love ✓
  • Loads and loads of angst ✓
  • Post-punk music ✓

Is it any wonder I jumped at the opportunity to read and review this book?

Goodreads synopsis:

Mix Tape

You never forget the one that got away. But what if ‘what could have been’ is still to come?

Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape.

But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; she’d been the one to run away, after all.

Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past.

For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her too-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind.

And so begins a new mix tape.

Ali and Dan exchange songs – some new, some old – across oceans and time zones, across a lifetime of different experiences, until one of them breaks the rules and sends a message that will change everything…

Because what if ‘what could have been’ is still to come?

Trigger warning: Rape, alcoholism


Dan and Alison were in a relationship 30 years back as teenagers in Sheffield. Alison was very private about her tumultuous home life but Dan and his family were her happy place. Dan was also the first boy to make her a mixtape. Now, 30 years later, Dan and Alison have long split up and married other people. Alison’s an author living in Australia, Dan’s a music journalist in Edinburgh.

One day, Dan reaches out to Alison on Twitter with a link to a song from their past (Pump It Up by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, only one of my favourite songs, no biggie!) and so begins a new mixtape. Will Alison and Dan reconnect? Will she reveal the secrets of her traumatic past and explain why she left him (and Sheffield) in the first place? And what will any of it mean for their respective marriages?

Mix Tape is your ticket to a nostalgia trip filled with cassettes, mix tapes, and boom boxes. The music is my favourite part about the book, for you see, I absolutely love ’70s and ’80s music. This book had me with the first couple songs in it, Pump It Up by Elvis Costello and Picture This by Blondie, both stellar songs you should check out if you haven’t already.

While I loved the angst in the present day chapters, I thoroughly enjoyed the flashbacks to Dan and Alison’s teenage lives. Alison, in particular, has a very powerful, tragic backstory that had me sniffling every couple pages. An alcoholic mother, an absentee father, and a brother who had to step up to bring in money to the family–they were all fleshed out really well to further explain Alison’s character and eventual flight from Sheffield.

Sanderson also has a dynamite writing voice, wielded well when writing about Alison’s adolescence. There are so many quotable lines from this beautiful book, but here’s my favourite:

“Y’know, Ali, loss of reputation can be liberating, once you can let go of the person you think everyone wants you to be.”

I was so sure until at least halfway through the book that it would be a five-star read. But the second half raised a couple of uncomfortable questions that just weren’t satisfactorily answered and my rating slipped.

Overall, Mix Tape is an equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming book about love, family, and the power of music. If you like angst, nostalgia trips, or post-punk music, this is a book you should definitely check out!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

~ Shruti

2 thoughts on “Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson

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