Probably my most favorite genre to read are YA contemporary novels that have a grittier, more realistic, story to tell. I like books with a powerful voice. I’ve read some really amazing authors that left an indelible impression on me. It is for that reason, the marks they leave, that I am constantly looking for the next amazing deep, realistic book to lose myself in. I also like to read and showcase exceptional books that represent the LGBTQIA community. Unfortunately I can’t say that Beautiful Music for Ugly Children hit the mark.
I’m a positive person, so let’s start with what I did like. I liked the music and the radio show. I liked the Ugly Children Brigade. I thought that Gabe’s relationship with music played into the plot really well. I especially liked the use of ‘A sides’ and ‘B sides’ as a representation of how Gabe finds the strength to show the world who he is. For anyone who has ever listened to vinyl or cassette’s, the idea of ‘B sides’ is really monumental. Sometimes the best songs are found on the B side.
Since we’re discussing Gabe and his love of music, I also have to say that I loved Gabe’s relationship with his neighbor John. John, despite being in his 70’s, and 18 year old Gabe were kindred spirits and I think that the author did a pretty darn good job of showing that. I even admit that, despite my only 3.5 skulls, I had tears a bit at the end… and it was because of Gabe and John.
Lastly, toward the end of the book, the parents offered insight into Gabe being trans that I personally hadn’t read in a book before. I was a little surprised reading one particular scene with the mother, and while I didn’t agree 100% I maybe felt a little understanding. Actually, I felt like the reactions of all of Gabe’s loved ones were explained with realism.
From here we sadly have to move into what was lacking. When it comes to these types of books, the gritty contemporaries as I like to call them, I prefer the romance (if there is one) to come secondary to the plot. Actually, that’s not 100% accurate. There can be a major romance, so long as the characters, particularly the main character, aren’t flaky. I’ve had problems in the past with books that deal with serious topics being written with characters that are just too pervy. This book is about a boy who is trying to deal with helping his family understand his transitioning. That’s why I picked it up. That’s what I want to read about. I understand that they’re teenagers and there will be conversations about sex, or lusty looks. I just don’t want to read about a 16 year old kid that seriously only thinks about sex, hot girl lips, or booty. At least not as the MC.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the worst offender. Reading about Gabe wasn’t all shallow. Like I said, the scenes with John were not. It’s not as though his plight didn’t appear hard. I understood what Gabe was going through. I just prefer there to be more heart in a story like this. Literature is such a platform for change. YA Lit especially is an amazing place to provoke thought. I wanted my mind to be stroked. I didn’t want to read about Gabe’s lust for Paige over and over and over.
I suppose, once again, I was just looking for more. I know there are some hidden gems out there that really push the envelope and made another reader out there think. I’ve read David Levithan. I want the unknown. I want a lesser known book. If anyone has any recs out there, please feel free to drop them in the comments. For now, the search continues.
See this and other reviews at Badass Book Reviews