Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Publisher: Amulet Books
Released: 2nd May 2017
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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.
(from Goodreads)

I absolutely loved this book. I was really in the mood for a great contemp and it was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Jordan was such a fantastic main character. Words can’t express how much I loved her. I literally related to her in the very first line of the book – I pretty much have an existential crisis every Monday morning. As an Alto 2, Jordan kept getting rejected from parts in musicals for not having a conventional female vocal range. She also had a lot of other things going on; her mum and dad (who suffered from chronic pain) were having money troubles that were inevitably affecting her and making her feel guilty and she was still getting over her ex-boyfriend while also trying figure out whether she was attracted to girls as well as guys. She felt friendless at her school and didn’t really have anyone to turn to. Apart from the fact that I really appreciated being able to read about a Chinese-American bisexual character, Jordan was so likeable. Her narrative was hilarious, her voice was so believable and I really liked how dedicated she was to her craft. So determined was she to do something instead of mope around, miserable that she’d failed another audition, she dressed up as a boy and joined an all-male a cappella group. After all, what did she have to lose except her dignity? There was a bit of suspension of disbelief involved there, but honestly, it was so funny because even Jordan was questioning how everyone was buying her charade and it just made me smile.

I can’t tell you how much I loved Jordan’s friendship with all the boys in the Sharpshooters. First we had Trav, the leader of the group, and most mysterious. I wish we had got to know him more, but he was the sort of quietly loyal type – prone to frustrated outbursts, but a good guy inside. Next we had Isaac who I adored. He was both adventurous and reckless and yet intensely shy and uncertain at times. I loved his relationship with Jordan the most and he was so sweet and understanding. I liked that things weren’t all cool and calm between them, there was awkwardness, but also an excitement on what could be. Thirdly, we had Nihal, who was another of my favourites. His and Jordan’s friendship was so natural and easy, and I really liked the side story about Nihal’s own relationship with a certain member of the Minuets, another a cappella group (whose character I was really hoping would develop, but alas, it did not. I would have liked more resolution on it). Then there was Jon Cox and Mama, who were both hilarious and loyal and kind of the backbone of the group, the reliable ones you know would always be there. Erik and Marcus were newbies to the team, too, freshman who had to acclimate to the group dynamic like Jordan did. Marcus’s rants about politics always made me laugh and essentially, I just really liked all these characters. I apologise because I have gone on far too long.

Plot-wise, Noteworthy is quite slow-paced, with much of the story involving the Sharpshooters’ rivalry with the Minuets, preparing for a competition in December and Jordan coping with being a girl during the day and putting on her boy persona at night during rehearsals. But there were lots of other things going on too, and in my opinion, even though this wasn’t an action-packed fast paced book with tons of twists and turns, there was never a dull moment. It explored lots of different themes really well, including sexuality and gender, and I only wish it were a bit longer, because I would have loved to have seen what happened after the ending! (But this is what happens with all good books.) I loved all the performing arts parts of the book and learning about music and theatre (even if I wasn’t quite familiar with all the technical terms). There were a few things I think could have been developed or explained a bit more (the whole situation with Connor and his father, for one), but overall, this was a fantastic book with an amazing set of complex characters, and I am so happy that I got to read it.

Overall, Noteworthy is a real stand-out contemp, and I can’t recommend it enough.