Book Review by Aarene Storms: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Thursday, September 22, 2016

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 was contrived, and several of the characters (mostly the haters) were two-dimensional and moved without motive. Paige and Gabe's musical mentor John were 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.
bullying, cussing (mild), fighting, friendship, guys, high school, kissing, LGBTQ, parents, rock and roll, some blood, straight friends, transgender, yearning

The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.  --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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