Published by Flux on October 8, 2012
Genres: Coming of Age, LGBT, Young Adult
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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"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.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is problematic. The more I think about the book, the more it bothers me.
I liked that Gabe is enthusiastic about what he loves: music and radio. His enthusiasm is a lot of fun to read. I like that Gabe makes a choice after high school that varies from the norm and is often looked down upon. It’s completely valid, and a smart decision for a lot of kids. I also enjoyed the banter between Paige and Gabe, watching them navigate their friendship/relationship. It’s also nice to see a fictional transgender character who is a trans man.
But…There was no nuance. Situations were either black or white. For the most part, you saw either complete, unconditional acceptance, or violent bullying. Struggles were resolved nicely and neatly. The reality is, answers don’t come as easily as they did in this novel. And while I don’t want to see that old “tragic trans character” trope, I think authors need to be careful that the very real worries and issues their trans characters face aren’t solved so quickly and easily that it feels dismissive.
Worst of all, Gabe ends up thanking the girl who outs him (which led to the violence in the book). I can see (cautiously) forgiving her, but thanking her?!?! No, no, no, no, no! Cisgender authors, be more careful when writing trans characters.
I’m cisgender too, though. What do trans readers think about Beautiful Music for Ugly Children? Here are two differing opinions: