Author: Riley Redgate
Publication: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: e-ARC, 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Read: April 2017
I received an e-ARC of this book from Abrams Kids and Amulet Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.
Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.
Plot – 3 out of 5 stars
The plot of this book was really fun and cute though it also dealt with the heavier themes of like like gender identity, friendship, family and sexuality. It’s a coming of age story with secrets and some violence. However, I wish the ending matched the beginning, meaning I wish the themes involved would’ve come full circle in a different way and that the ending didn’t feel like such a cop out I guess.
Writing Style – 3 out of 5 stars
The writing style is pretty easy to read, however, there were really long chapters which made it feel like it was dragging by. It’s detailed and descriptive and quite funny and entertaining as well. I really loved the music side of the story, even though it wasn’t really a big focal point like I expected. I was a bit disappointed with the way some of the themes were explored and was hoping they would have more page time.
Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
I’m a little sad to say that I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I was hoping to. There wasn’t anything that I particularly disliked about any of them, I have started to think that maybe this author’s writing style isn’t for me. There’s just something about it that doesn’t really allow me to get lost into the story completely like I like to.
Jordan is kind of a frustrating character but it makes sense. She’s confused and a little lost. She wants to feel like she belongs in this fancy performing arts school she’s a part of but she isn’t really finding her place within it. She’s kind of quiet and feels discouraged with her dreams. She struggles with the decision she makes and feels very guilty. She’s torn and angry. She doubts herself a lot and feels a lot of pressure. She’s dealing with all these different things going on in her life but I wish that all this coming of age and self-discovery would’ve included more honesty and personal responsibility.
There’s a lot of side characters and they’re all such complex individuals with different stories and lives and their relationships are all so complicated and intricate. There’s a lot of diversity in this book which was so amazing to read because that’s one of the biggest positives of this story, how real they feel as a group, as people that reside in this school. I wish there would’ve been more page time for developing friendships, you see glimpses here and there but a lot of the book was just Jordan’s thoughts and feelings. I would’ve liked to have seen more page time of the friendships that developed since the story started and the ones that were already established before.
I’m sad to say that I was disappointed by this book. The hype is huge but I felt some things about the narrative went unexplored.
The plot was serious. We follow Jordan, a girl who is struggling to find her place in life and in her performing arts school so she decides to cross dress as a boy to audition for an a Capella group. At first, I went into this book thinking it was going to be a light and fluffy contemporary read but it was a lot more intense than I was expecting. There’s a lot of serious themes woven throughout the story and it was kind of hard for me to get into the plot because of it. The way the story ended up being made it hard for me to get lost into it the way I like to. What originally attracted me to this story was the music and a Capella elements though they weren’t as prominent as I was expecting. However, I really liked how they were done! It’s definitely hard to explain music, it’s something you listen to and experience in a different way, so one of the challenges with these kinds of themes in books is to be able to make it tangible for the reader to imagine. I really enjoyed the way the author described the way the group’s dynamic was and how they practiced. I’m glad it wasn’t something that was brushed aside for the rest of the story because some books do that, they say it’ll feature some form of music or dance but won’t really describe the characters being part of that activity so I’m glad this book actually showed them practicing for a big competition. I really liked the different and complex relationships between the characters and the diversity within them. That was probably one of the most important parts of this story. They all interacted with each other in different ways but I kind of wish there would’ve been more time spent on those developments within the friendships and relationships within the narrative. Despite all of this, I feel like some of the most important themes in the book felt underdeveloped. Jordan discovers her bisexuality in this book and I liked how it was just something she realized and accepted about herself when she understood it, though it’s not something that’s discussed a lot within her own internal monologue. Also there’s some talk about gender identity and what it means to be a girl or a boy and I felt like that wasn’t explored as much as it should’ve been. Jordan thinks about what she’s doing and how it could easily be seen as her being trans to the people who might find out what she’s doing, she understands it’s a problem, and yet there’s really no other non-binary or trans characters to really explore that theme and how what she’s doing might make them feel. Here is a twitter thread that describes the issues a little more. There wasn’t enough page time to show this topic the respect and nuanced it deserved in my opinion.
Jordan struggled a lot with the choices she made in this book but I wish she would’ve come clean about what she was doing sooner. She struggled a lot with guilt over her decision and over keeping it a secret but in the end, she didn’t make any moves to fix that for herself. The ending also kind of reiterated the thought that there’s really no consequences to lying to everyone you know, including your school which isn’t something that I can support because I don’t think lying is okay. I wish there would’ve been some personal responsibility involved with the decisions she made and how they might’ve affected people, specially when if I would’ve been in their position, I would’ve felt betrayed. However, I understood her family struggles and the loneliness she dealt with in school. I’ve always felt like I owed my parents everything because all they sacrificed for me and I totally connected with her feeling torn over what to do when it came down to staying at school or not. Also, I struggle a lot with feeling isolated from the people around me and it was actually kind of comforting to see a character dealing with that as well, even in such a big school.
As for the side characters, I really loved the Sharpshooters dynamics. They felt like a real group of guys who’d be into singing and rehearsing together. I was also really pleased that there wasn’t blatant misogyny within the group and they didn’t spend the whole time objectifying women. Their relationships were really genuine. There was a great atmosphere within the group, but also down the relationships between two individuals within the story. Jordan and Nihal had a really nice friendship though I kind of wish there would’ve been more page time to see it develop. The friendship between John and Mama was also really sweet, I love how they took care of each other while still teasing each other mercilessly. (Though I wish everyone would’ve just listened to him and called him by his name, specially since he asked them too.) I liked Isaac, though he was a little bit too impulsive for me. He was really charming and charismatic and I was really interested to see more interactions between him and Travis and to know more of their history. Something that I didn’t really like about this book is the high amount of bullying and violence, it was really intense and overpowering.
Overall, I’m beginning to think that the author’s writing style isn’t really for me. I liked the story overall but nothing really wowed me or made me fall in love with it. The plot was a lot more serious than I expected and while I liked some of the themes the author explored, some of them felt underdeveloped. I loved the music and a Capella part of the book, honestly it was my favorite part. I liked the characters but I also wanted to see more of their relationships and friendships develop on page. I’m not sure I’ll read more of this author’s work since I felt the first two books I read were kind of okay for me but it all depends on what it’s about.
So that’s it for this post! I’d kind of sad that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I wanted to but most everyone I know has loved it so it’s definitely me haha. I’d love to know if you’ve read it and what you thought of it. Also if you know any more books that have to do with music or dance, I’d love to hear the recs! Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!