Friday, May 12, 2017

ARC Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Title: Noteworthy
Written by: Riley Redgate
Published: May 2, 2017 by Amulet

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A cappella just got a makeover. 

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 an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

This is one of those books that I didn't realize exactly how much I liked it until the book was over and I didn't want it to be. I'm actually kind of surprised by how much I liked it.

This book is marketed as Pitch Perfect meets She's The Man, which is why I wanted to read it in the first place. And honestly, that is what this book was. It's about a girl dressing as a boy to get into an acapella group. I was totally intrigued but the concept despite the fact that I usually am not really a fan of the girl dressing as a boy trope. And in the end I did enjoy it more than I thought, I'm not entirely sure if it worked here. I do think it made for an interesting concept and really allowed the author to explore a lot of questions about gender, but I kind of felt like there could have been more conflict.

But I think that was my main problem with the book as a whole. There really good have been more conflict. With these kind of plots you expect them to get caught, you expect there to be hijinx and near misses. And there really weren't many of those. It kind of went from nothing to all when it came to this book. And it wasn't just the dressing as a boy part. The B plot here was about the rivalry and that should have been super interesting but it didn't really kick in or get good until much later in the book. I just would have like more drama. And maybe that was because it had a really slow start. It took me three days to read the first third of the book and then I read the last two-thirds in two days. Maybe I just powered through and got to the good stuff or maybe it just was the kind of book that I just breezed through because it was on the simpler end. I think just in general I didn't love the pacing and wanted a more plot driven book.

I think this was more of a character driven read, which is probably why I liked the characters. For one thing, the main character Jordan was really complex and likable. She is one of those characters that doesn't really have things very easy. She has to fight for what she does have so it makes sense when she goes to some extreme measures. But you want her to succeed. You want her to make it and that is the mark of good characterization.

There were also some really good secondary characters here. This is a book with a large cast of characters. One of the things I liked but was also kind of a criticism, is that this is a book full of diverse characters. It really showed a spectrum of characters with different races, sexes, and genders. It had a bit of everything. It showed the diversity of life which is cool but I wonder if it was just trying to hit all the boxes. What I did appreciate about the secondary characters is that many of them were not wholly good. It showed people at their best and their worst:l. It showed people screwing up and being jerks, and it showed people helping others out when they were in need. It was realistic and honest with it's characterizations which I liked.

I also, for the most part, enjoyed the setting of this book. It's a book set in a boarding school which I am a fan of, but it took it further and made it a preforming arts school. And the cool thing about that is we got to see the characters in classes. A lot of times with boarding school books we only see the characters out of class and I appreciate that that wasn't the case here. And as far as the setting goes, it also took us into the world of acapella. I liked seeing them practice and work on their arrangements but I kind of wanted more music. When you compare books to Glee and Pith Perfect you have to remember that you lose something without the actually songs. But that's not a real criticism of this book, it's just my own reminder. Because in general, the setting was good.

On the whole I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would if I'm being entirely honest. It was a good and cute contemporary with complex and likable characters that ended up having some good conflict when it finally kicked in. I just wish it didn't have such a slow start and the conflict was more heightened.

I give Noteworthy by Riley Redgate 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Fans of YA contemporaries should check this out especially if you like stories about acapella and/or boarding schools. I really did enjoy it.

Have you read Noteworthy? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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