2012 · 4 stars · contemporary · fiction · ya

review; beautiful music for ugly children

Title: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Pub. Date: October, 2012
Summary: The lives and loves of a teenage transboy music geek

Gabe has always identified as a boy, but he was born with a girl’s body. With his new public access radio show gaining in popularity, Gabe struggles with romance, friendships, and parents-all while trying to come out as transgendered. An audition for a station in Minneapolis looks like his ticket to a better life in the big city. But his entire future is threatened when several violent guys find out Gabe the popular DJ is also Elizabeth from school.
Genre: Contemporary YA

When you think about it, I’m like my 45. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side – not played as often, but the song’s just as good.

Like I mentioned in my review of The Waiting Sky, I really shy away from Novels With Issues. Whereas with other genres I can pick up a sci-fi book or a mystery whenever I feel like it. That’s SO not the case with books dealing with heavy topics. I need to be in a certain mood for those, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children caught my eye and, like The Waiting Sky, I’m so glad it did. You know, I’m two-for-two now, so perhaps issue novels aren’t something I should be so weary about.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children centers on Gabe Williams, a soon-to-be-graduate and, quite frankly, he couldn’t be more eager to get out of there. Just a few months ago Gabe told his BFF Paige the secret he’d been hiding his entire life: he never felt like he was Elizabeth Mary Williams. He wants to undergo the transition to become the man he always felt he was. Unfortunately, when he came out to his family, he didn’t have the same acceptance and support than he received from Paige. Since then, his brother has barely said a word (despite the two being close prior to his announcement) and his parents refuse to look his way – and insist on referring to him as Liz.

What’s life without loud music in your car?

The only thing that gets Gabe through the week is the thought of his radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. When he was 10 a new neighbor moved in next door and John quickly became a grandfather figure for Gabe. Gabe had always prided himself on being a self-professed music nerd, but John has taken it a step further. Their Friday Night Fights (topics include Johnny Rotten vs. Sid Vicious, for example) aren’t uncommon and the two can spend all day going through John’s 6,000+ LP collection.

John was a legendary DJ and the first to interview Elvis. He’s secured Gabe a spot on the local community station and it’s in those early hours of the morning that Gabe shines. For his first few shows he wasn’t sure whether to introduce himself as Gabe or Liz – especially knowing numerous classmates are listeners. Ultimately he decides not to hide anymore and Gabe makes his public debut.

Got it, world? I’m a guy. A scared guy, though I try not to show it, and a guy with a long freaking road ahead of him. But, still. Just a guy.

I could seriously go on and on about this book. I loved Gabe and John and music played such a huge part in this book. I loved that Gabe doesn’t scoff as “mainstream” music and plays Flo Rida and Prince right alongside 50s classics. Also, the chapter titles are so awesome and all involve Elvis: T-Pain is the new Elvis because he’s on a boat, motherbeepers, and Elvis probably wanted a boat too, Rush Limbaugh can’t be the new Elvis; he’s too mean, Conan O’Brien is the new Elvis and he has the hair to prove it, etc.

One thing I wished would have been done differently in this novel is the romance. Not one, not two, but three girls are suddenly involved with Gabe and I just wasn’t feeling it. My pick for him didn’t work out, and one of the girls came out of nowhere. I couldn’t understand why she was suddenly showing interest when she hadn’t said a word to him before.

Another fault this book had was the ending. It was very After School Special in that everything wrapped up nicely and everything was resolved and the world was a happy, sunshiney place. There were also things that seemed huge to the story, yet were never mentioned again.

So despite its faults, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a wonderful, beautifully-written book that will stick with me long after I move on to other books.


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