Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Release Date: May 2, 2017 (YES this review is super late. I am SORRY)
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Themes: arts school, gender, sexuality, music, singing (a cappella), class relations, disability
My Rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads Summary: Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options. In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…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. Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.
I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This book is definitely a new all-time-favorite of mine. I knew going into this book that I would love it, but I ended up loving it so much more. This book was everything I want in a light-fluffy contemporary, with the added bonus of being set at an arts school – relating to my own particular brand of nerd.
Noteworthy is incredibly diverse, which is something that I wasn’t expecting. Our main character is Asian-American, as well as bisexual. She also has a Sikh friend who wears a turban, and there are several other characters of color and varying sexualities. While I can’t truly speak for any of the representation, I personally felt that it was all handled very well, and respectfully.
As a person who went to an arts high school, this book was so incredibly relatable. Although I can’t necessarily relate to one of the character’s obsessions with classical and baroque composers (I much prefer Shostakovich), I can definitely relate to the obsession with nerdy classical music. I loved watching all the characters go through rehearsals together. It really made me miss all of my friends and the antics we used to get into during orchestra rehearsals (benefits of being in the brass section – you sit in the back out of earshot of the conductor). Plus, Riley Redgate made a playlist of the music the Sharpshooters sing throughout the book, and I still haven’t recovered. I really want this book to be a movie so I can listen to this music for the rest of my life. Seriously, go listen to it. It’s amazing.
Another thing I really appreciated about this book was that, even though it’s a pretty fluffy contemporary, it still tackles some pretty hard topics. Amongst sexuality and gender role discussions, there are conversations about class relations, disability, and money. None of these topics are treated flippantly, and I really liked that not every issue had a magical solution that could be solved overnight.
Bonus points for the beautiful writing. Redgate’s writing style is gorgeous, and this book has one of my new favorite quotes:
“His expression was written in uncertainty, and signed in curiosity.”
I’m so glad I ended up loving this book so much; we need more books about music nerds in the world.