I came to transgender awareness a bit late in life. I always wondered if the real issues surrounding gender identification were basically a problem with societal standards for what it meant to be a man or what it meant to be a woman. But books like Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills reinforce how gender is much more complicated than a combination of roles and physical differences.
In this YA novel, Gabe has always known he was Gabe, though he has lived his entire life as Elizabeth. As high school is coming to an end, Gabe decides to fully embrace his true nature. He has a best friend Paige to help him through, and he’s also the host of his own radio show that gives the book its provocative title. Bad boys find out that Gabe is Elizabeth from school and threaten his family.
An important strength of this book for me was that I kept forgetting the protagonist’s core issue. His interactions with friends, family, and the community, as well as his need for recognition in the media field, sounded very much like the concerns of any vulnerable teenager. Gabe is a protagonist that readers will trust.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is published by Flux (an imprint that I had to Google to find out more information about. It labels itself “the new literati”…) The book is 288 pages long and will be published in October 2012. (My thanks to NetGalley for letting me download the unedited proof for this review.) I am going to pitch the book to my many librarian friends, who, as always, help lead the fight on many fronts.