“Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” is a young adult novel and the winner of the Stonewall Award, an award given to books who stand out for their representation of LGBTQ characters and their handling of such sensitive subjects. “Beautiful Music” is specifically about Gabe, born Liz, and his transition from female to male and the reaction he garners for presenting to the world his truest self. Though he has known that he was a man since middle school, it isn’t until he is about to graduate from high school that he begins to share this. Viewing graduation as the right time to start a completely new chapter of his life, he tells but a handful of people – his parents (who do not react well, but yet, still with love), his brother (who does not react at all), his best friend Paige (who does not love him the way he loves her), and his neighbor and musical mentor, John (who loves him regardless and thinks he has superb taste in music).
Gabe also takes this time in his life to delve deeper into his one true love (not Paige, sadly): music. John helps him get a one hour radio show playing in the late night. Behind the microphone, Gabe flourishes and develops a loyal following, the Ugly Children Brigade. Life, though challenging, is slowly starting to even out. Of course, until a member of the UCB meets Gabe and remembers Liz. Her reaction is unpleasant and with the power of social media, it gets worse. In a shocking display of violence and fear, Gabe’s world becomes a more dangerous place.
Note: Kirstin Cronin-Mills includes an afterward in this book about the experiences and process by which those who fall under the “transgendered umbrella” live. She also takes the time to explain that not everyone transitions the same way, reacts to such a transition, and she provides resources not only on those issues but also the accompanying reality of suicide. This afterward, and the fact that she wrote the supporting characters to react to Gabe’s news in such different but realistic ways, is worth noting.
– a post from Sarah