Book Title:
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Book Author:
Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Publishing Date:
October 8th, 2012
Date Read:
November 18th, 2015


"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.

My Review

This is a positively beautiful book.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children tells the story of Gabe, who has been living as Elizabeth, but knows deep down that he is, in fact, Gabe.  Only being “out” to his parents and best friend, he doesn’t have much support from his family (parents or brother…his brother calls him a “freak” in the beginning of the book, and most of the time his parents won’t even look at him), and often looks to his friend Paige for help (even though he is secretly in love with her).  At school, people just refer to him as “that lesbo chick,” since they don’t know the truth.  Gabe is counting down the days until graduation where he can get away from all the kids in his high school and be more open about who he really is, without worrying about getting ridiculed as much as if he came out before graduating.

But that isn’t all that this book focuses on – it also focuses on Gabe’s immense love of music, and how he focuses so many parts of his life around music.  He has his own radio show once a week, where he plays music and gets to be Gabe, instead of Elizabeth, because no one can see who he really is.  He feels safe and comfortable doing his radio show, and his friend John, who is an even bigger music enthusiast, is always there to help him and talk to him.  John might be old enough to be Gabe’s grandfather, but the bond that the two of them have is priceless.

The book deals with a lot of hot-topic issues, including bullying, sexuality, and homophobia.  I think it handles these issues pretty well, and while some parts of it are just heartbreaking to read, it felt like Gabe’s story was very real.  A lot of YA books focus on simple male-female relationships, and not many even try to touch on LGBT characters, which is a shame.  If more books like this one existed, I feel that members of the LGBT community would feel a lot more comfortable and included.

This book was so well-written, raw, and real.  It had sections that made me laugh, sections that made me cry, and throughout the entire book I found myself loving Gabe’s character.  John’s character was incredibly well done, as well, and I really enjoyed the awesome relationship that he and Gabe had.  John was open and loving, regardless.

The audience that Gabe gets while doing his radio show is nice, but then when someone finds out that Gabe is Elizabeth from school, things take a turn for the worse.  It was heartbreaking to watch how this played out, but honestly, if there wasn’t any negativity in the book, it wouldn’t have that gripping, real feeling like it did, which wouldn’t have made the book as good as it was.  Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world of love and acceptance, and this book doesn’t try to make it seem like we do.  But it does deal with bullying in a pretty positive light, and it does have more happy parts than sad parts, so it was easy to completely get lost in and love.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars
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4 Responses to Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

  1. This is an honestly good review! I’m liking how you were able to describe the main character and how it blended well to the beautiful plot of the story. The last paragraph of your review really moved me, btw.

    I love your blog! xx

    • Kelly says:

      Awe, thank you! I had a difficult time writing this review, actually, because the book was so beautifully written, and it has such a wonderful message that we need to see more of in YA!

  2. I’ve actually never heard of this book before, but it sounds great! I’ll have to put it on my TBR. I love books that focus on a character’s love of music, even though I’m definitely not a music person haha. I loved your review!

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