So maybe I should stay away from Rob. What if I put a dent in his head, or sink the claw into his cheek, and all he's trying to do is 'love' me back?
This is the story of a girl growing up in Central Nowhere (aka Nebraska). Morgan is in her senior year of high-school, and she can't wait to get the heck out of her small town. She has big dreams of writing the Great American Novel, and living in a big city, somewhere far away. The only thing she likes about Central Nowhere are the hills. Whenever she is frustrated, angry or confused (which is a lot), she drives into the hills, and screams her angst out to her hearts desire. And they don't mind.
Morgan is a great narrator. She is a interesting thinker, and she is constantly thinking up fortunes she would write for fortune cookies, and leaving them hidden all over the place. Each chapter starts out with an actual fortune from a cookie, and Morgan's quirky and snarky originals are scattered through the paragraphs, as they are scattered in the story in all the places Morgan goes.
Most of the story focuses on Morgan's relationships with the people around her, more so her love life. She is in a love triangle of sorts with her current boyfriend Derek (a shallow, boring guy) and her co-worker Rob (who she thinks is really cute and has a huge crush on). To make things even more complicated, she discovers that her neighbor and childhood friend, Tessa has a huge crush on HER, and she doesn't know what to make of all this. She needs to figure out what she want in life and the others in it, with some old family issues surfacing and a painful secret revealed to top it all off.
Life will fall apart, but will it fall back together? (*dramatic movie trailer voice*)
All in all, a serious but light read. I liked the narrative, and the family relationships that were discussed could have been explored more in depth, they could have been more interesting, and less neglected to the plot of a 17 year old girl's dramatic love life... Though a little sappy, things find closure in this book quite nicely. Had a breezy and refreshing feeling to it.
A story of self discovery. Learning that people aren't always what they seem at face value. Losing trust, gaining trust, and forgiveness. Knowing what you want and being who you are. Family. Acceptance. But most of all change.
Here is a quote from the book to sum that up, a conversation between Morgan and a usually slobby, cranky and repulsive customer and the grocery store she works at:
He's radiant. "Hello , young lady. How are you?"
I try to get my act together. "I'm all right, sir. How are you?"
"I'm clean, literally, and also sober. It's a great day."
I give him a faint smile as I bag up his food. "That's $12.73."
He hand me a twenty. "Keep the change."
"Sir I can't do that." I hand him back $7.27.
"Yes you can. Things change. Here's my change."
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
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.
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.