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review 2015-04-03 16:02
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

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

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review 2015-01-12 19:56
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children


Kristin  Cronn-Mills, 2012


Gabe Williams just got his dream job – a radio DJ gig. Sure, it’s Friday nights at midnight and it’s on a local community radio station, so probably no one will listen, but it’s a start. What Gabe really wants is to move to the Cities after he graduates in a few months, get a place of his own, a radio job, and a chance to start his life over where nobody knows who he is. Because everybody in his town knows him as Elizabeth. Gabe was born a girl, but has known since he was a child that he was really a boy. He recently revealed this fact to his best friend and his family, to mixed results. But on the radio, he is a voice, so no one has to know who he is. He can just be Gabe. But once his secret gets out, will his fans still accept him?



This is a great look into what it’s like being a transgender individual. Told from Gabe’s point of view, the reader gets to see things how Gabe sees things. He’s not a girl dressing up and pretending to be a boy. He’s a boy who was born into the wrong body. I thought that the character of Gabe was extremely well-written. He has all the fears and insecurities that any one in this situation would surely have, but at the same time he seems like a typical teenager with dreams of a future after high school graduation.


I loved the author’s choice to tell Gabe’s story through his radio show music. His music obsession gave him a lot of character as well as allowing us to see a lot of the “real” Gabe that he was allowed to be on his radio show. I also thought that his relationship with his music mentor, John, was amazing, and honestly much more interesting than his relationship with his best friend, Paige.


Overall, I thought that this was a great story, and very realistic, showing all of the hardships a teen would face when trying to transition, including hate and violence, but also love and acceptance. I would strongly recommend this book to all teenage readers, but especially those in the LGBT community who might be struggling with their identities and coming out to friends and family.

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text 2015-01-02 04:12
Some of my favorites from 2014
Listening To Dust - Brandon Shire
Into This River I Drown - T.J. Klune
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills
The Death Factory: A Penn Cage Novella - Greg Iles
Glitterland: Aftermath - Alexis Hall
When All the World Sleeps - Lisa Henry,J.A. Rock
The Bible Boys - Dan Skinner
The Art of the Heart - Dan Skinner
You're Always in the Last Place You Look - T.N. Gates

I stopped at 10 and I tried to stay away from series because well that would have created a whole other problem as in a really, really long list. I read a lot of books in 2014 that I really, really loved. I started out thinking that I could make myself pick just one and in my mind one quickly became 5 and 2 books into this list 5 became 10. So this is where I make myself stop.


Were there only 10 books that I really liked last year...oh hell no! But these 10 were probably the ones that took me on the most incredible emotional roller coaster rides so I felt that they deserved a little extra nudge up on my list.


Ironically if I had to recommend just one...nope...can't do it because in part it would depend on who I was making that recommendation to as to what book I would tell them to read.


There were other books that I really enjoyed. No they weren't necessarily 5 a star read, but they found their way into my heart for one reason or another. There was Sara York's Forever Yours a 3 star read until I got to the end and suddenly found myself having a 5 star moment or two.  Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock's Mark Cooper Versus America a book that was just more fun than a barrel of monkeys and steamier than a sauna. Leta Blake's Training Season a book that 'wowed' me in so many ways that I'm sitting here asking myself why it didn't get 5 stars from me.


Looking back 2014 was a good reading year for me and I'm hoping that 2015 will be every bit as good. My goals this year are a little different but I'm hoping to make them every bit as rewarding. So here's hoping that 2015 is another year of wonderful reads for everyone of you too.

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review 2014-10-14 15:20
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

“It’s 90.3, KZUK, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, you’re listening to Gabe at this late hour right here on community radio and I’m here for my listeners. So turn it up and sit back and listen to some Def Leppard, those boys of the 70’s.” It’s Gabe turn to show his style, at least behind the mike he’s himself or who he thinks he has become. He’s telling his story beside his mentor, neighbor and great friend John who he idolizes. Few people know Gabe as Gabe, most people know him as Elizabeth but using his fifty minutes of air time, he’s finally found a medium for which he can express himself and he feels free. Gabe lives a dual life, a life he hopes to shed once high school is over in the spring. At home, his parents are adjusting to his new gender and his best friend Paige has known since grade school that Elizabeth feels more comfortable in the male role. Since hitting the airwaves, things become more gratifying yet more complicated for Gabe. There is this rush, this adrenaline that ran through my veins when Gabe took to the airwaves. Gabe becomes like a bird in the sky, carefree and soaring, rising higher and higher in the sky, each week as he prepares to on for his listeners. Gabe creates a theme for each week’s songs and his messages to his audiences become more open and honest as the weeks progress, he’s becoming free to be who he truly is. His show is remarkable with such energy and commitment. A Facebook site is created based on his show and he adds requests of his listeners to perform tasks to show their support to his show. These groupies, the Ugly Children Brigade suddenly become a part of his life. Girls, friends and unfortunately, threats now enter his life and suddenly, things aren’t all rosy. Someone rained on his parade… of course they did. I wanted so much to reach into the book and tell Gabe that he can’t please everyone, to just enjoy himself and enjoy the ride. He wasn’t hurting anyone. People can be so judgmental. The silver lining was John. He was an amazing person. His story runs deep in the book with his own life, his relationship with Gabe’s family and how supportive he is of Gabe. John helps Gabe get a job and helps him get auditioned for a talent show. John is left in the dark about Gabe’s true identity, like the rest of the world until later, which surprised me. So many great parts in this book, as Gabe truly comes to understand himself and the world around him.

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review 2014-04-02 03:34
"Beautiful Music for Ugly Children," by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

The Plot: Gabe's having a hard time - he's ignored at school, he might be in love with his best friend Paige, and his family doesn't know how to talk to him anymore. You know, ever since he came out to them as Gabe, a boy, when they've spent the last 18 years of his life thinking he's Liz, a girl. Yeah. Being a trans teen is tough. He still goes by Liz when he's in public, but he dreams of being able to move out of his small town and start over where no one will ever know him as anything but Gabe.


Thankfully, Gabe has a volunteer radio show every week where he gets to play all his favourite music and actually be himself, without judgement or harassment. Unfortunately, when a schoolmate outs him as trans and a couple of bigots take violent exception to his gender identity, Gabe has to learn to be more assertive about who he is.


The Good:

  • The sheer number of musical name-drops. Gabe knows his music.
  • Gabe's elderly DJ mentor, John is the BALLS. 
  • Every time Gabe mentions his "imaginary penis"
  • Every time Gabe mentions his Mango (his prosthetic, less-imaginary penis.

The Bad:

  • Paige is a bit of a flake.
  • There's a hint of a romance with a classmate named Heather that's not really developed, and it could have been.
  • The two violent transphobes are just such glaringly obvious villains. It's hard to take them seriously.
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