Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children  by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Gabe was born Elizabeth, but he has always known that (physical characteristics to the contrary) he's a guy.  

While still in high school, he came out to his family and to his best friend Paige.  Now, he's ready to graduate and get on with his life: leave town, move to the city where nobody knows "Liz," get a job in the music industry, and leave all his problems behind him.

Funny how that doesn't quite work out.

This is one of those Important Issue Books():   Gabe is still in transition, and not everyone accepts that.  His parents say they do, but they still call him "Liz" and pretend he's a girl. Some of the faithful fans of his radio show "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children" turn against him when they find out he was born female.  And a few people in town have violent intentions.

Will this book be informative, comforting and helpful to transgender teens and their friends and family?  Yes, definitely.

Is this a great book that will stand the test of time?  No, probably not.  The plot is contrived, and several of the characters (mostly the haters) are two-dimensional and moved without motive.  Paige and Gabe's musical mentor John are well-developed, although credibility is stretched by the coincidence of having the first DJ to ever play an Elvis Presley single on the radio (who also happens to own Elvis' very first guitar) living right next door to a kid who loves Elvis.

Do I recommend this as a first purchase for library collections?  Yes, I do.  Mostly because there isn't much like it available right now, and the kids (and adults) who need it do not need to wait several years while the genre matures and improves.  

Buy it in paperback, recommend it to teens, and keep your eyes open for more books on this topic.  

Because surely there will be more.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Not If I See You First

Not If I See You First  by Eric Lindstrom

Parker Grant may be blind, but she's not dumb.  She has Rules (Chapter 3 lists them all) that she requires everybody to follow to ensure that she is as independent, smart, and capable of running her own life as possible.  She navigates the physical world pretty well, but her emotional life is a mess.  And, despite being part of a genius team of girls handing out advice to lovelorn teens in the courtyard at school, her love life is pretty pathetic.

Even her friendships with Sarah, Faith and Molly, which Parker considers to be essential to her life, have major flaws...flaws that Parker herself doesn't recognize until halfway through the book.  And what is she going to do about Jason, who is pretty cool, and Scott, whom she blames for betraying her when they were 13 years old?

The book is a compelling read that kept me up long past bedtime.  It's not perfect; there are some flaws (is there a reason  that all the Dad-characters are dead and/or run out of town? Also, the "gay kid" is kinda added-on) but the dialogue is awesome, and the insight into life as a modern blind teen was well-done.  

This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher.  
Cover art not final (I hope...it's pretty ugly).