Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Review

Alright! Second review for the day! Finally we are getting reviews again, Void Friends. It only took me forever to get these to you. Next month TBR is going to be crazy.

Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target  audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.

That being said… Spoilers ahead.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Synopsis From The Book

“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side―not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.

Winner of the 2014 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Contemporary | YA – PW |Transphobia, Verbal and Physical Violence | Coming of Age, Identity, Types of Love

Initial Thoughts Before Reading:

Alright what do I know about this book? Nothing. It was our PRIDE pick for June book club. So I take it back. I do know it’s related to Pride. As for the specifics I’m not sure. It will be fun tho!

Initial Thoughts After Reading:

Wow. If I have to say how many times this book had me stepping back or being vocal. Well. It probably would have been entertaining. I was yelling and shouting and freaking out. The whole time. It was a fun ride and I did notice some inconsistencies with timing and the likes (especially, since it was written in 2012, and terms have changed) But in general. Wow.

Plot Overview:

Gabe is a senior in Highschool. He has no college plans and has just started his radio show at midnight each Friday with the help of his neighbor John. His first show goes relatively well, and he talks to a girl, twice, when she calls in for a request. However, Gabe is worried about his radio show getting out. Because to the rest of the world he’s still Liz.

He came out to his family, and they are tense to say the least. But at least his best friend Paige is supportive. Doesn’t help that he loves her more than as a friend. Leading up to the second week of his show, Gabe comes out to John and John tells Gabe to talk more on his show. So he does. And after making a little bit of a speech about being oneself, a few listeners tag a wall with their own A side and B sides. Gabe officially has a fan club.

John entered Gabe into a radio contest. And when offered the chance to join it’s for Elizabeth, not Gabe, and Gabe sends back that he’s transitioning and hopes that they still accept him. They do, and he is offered a chance for $5,000 in a contest on June 12.

The girl that Gabe talked to on the phone becomes a regular call in for his show and asks him out. It is only after graduation that he says he’d consider. Meanwhile, he and Paige party and shop. At one party, Gabe flirts with a girl named Heather who ends up texting him after some time, with very flirtatious messages.

Gabe and the phone girl, Mara, meet. And Gabe freaks out. At their second chance meeting, Mara recognizes Gabe and outs him to his fans, which is then followed up by harassment by others. Gabe is threatened, then Paige is assaulted. Gabe is threatened again and Gabe has to decide on what he wants. 

Paige and Gabe kiss to spite Mara, and it makes Paige consider a lot of things about their relationship. Where she is not sure what she wants their relationship to be. 

Gabe meets up with his fan club, but the meeting goes south when he’s attacked by his haters. Turns out one of the guys who hates him, is pissed because Heather was flirting with him. They hit John, and are taken down by another guy. The cops then take them away and John goes to the hospital. Gabe loses track of days as he waits for John to wake up and nearly misses his radio competition.

He sucks at it, because of where his mind is.

Luckily, however, John does wake up. Paige and Gabe have a weird we don’t know what we are conversation but know they want to stay in each other’s lives. John ends up selling a guitar he had worth a lot of money to pay for his medical bills and ends up giving $25,000 of it to Gabe to help with his transitioning. The novel ends with Gabe not knowing exactly what he’s going to do, but that he’s going to figure it out. 

What I Liked:

Gabe; He was great. I particularly liked him because of his sass. His dream was so intense even if he didn’t really know it. It was with radio and I really do hope that he is able to see that dream come true in a way. I also loved his love for music in general. I don’t know music like that, and its a particular knowledge set that I admire.

Paige; She was a character who was learning more about what she wanted. They are best friends, or were. I wanted to know more about her with her life and her dreams, but honestly that wasn’t much of Gabe’s story and so I’m not surprised we didn’t get it. My issues with Paige is that she is not necessarily a good friend. She is very self centered on how Gabe affects her. She was not necessarily the best character. I did like how Gabe played back at her after Paige was flirting with him.

Mara; I liked her. Then I hated her. Then I was like, she’s a transphobic human. But she is human. I appreciated having a character in here that I could be for and then against, by Gabe.

Heather; You know. I really liked her and wish we got more of her. Her flirting with pretty much everyone? I was here for it. I was also invested in her since she seemed to break up with everyone so quickly. She just seemed like an interesting person.

John; His knowledge for music is so amazing. His collection is amazing. And yet he is such a flawed human and I respect that.

Radio Show; I really liked the radio show and the fans. This part was so feel good, in general. I liked it as a medium for growth and change, as well as the central conflict. I also learned a lot about radio, and that’s always cool.

There were a few things in this book that were inaccurate and dated. I liked how the author addressed this at the end with the reprint edition.

What I Would Have Liked or Changed:

Not too sure.

Book Club:

Lol we had so many thoughts. But everyone really did like this book, and had some issues with Paige. One of our members did mention on how there were inaccuracies and dated information, and their appreciation to how the author addressed it (as I did). Additionally, this same member spoke on how Gabe’s coming out was hijacked and how they wished there was more on this. They did not think that it was addressed in the best way.

Rating: 4.5/5

Notable Quotes:

“What about you – more a side or b side?” – pg 42

“You only get one life, the answer is yes.” – pg 172

pt 1
pt 2
pt 3

One thought on “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Review

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