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Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

4.6 3
by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

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"This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show." My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life. When you think about it, I’m like a


"This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show." My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life. When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side—not heard as often, but just as good. It’s time to let my B side play. .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gabe Williams has a lot going on. He’s about to graduate from high school, he’s just started hosting a radio show, and he’s got a crush on his best friend Paige. Overshadowing it all: everyone knows him as Elizabeth. Cronn-Mills, whose The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind featured a teenage girl grappling with her sexuality, has clearly done her research. Gabe’s difficulties—from dealing with freaked-out parents and bigoted classmates to navigating love, sex, and whether to use the men’s or women’s room—are well documented. So much so, in fact, that the book sometimes feels like a PSA exposing the challenges a trans teen faces. Cronn-Mills never minimizes those challenges (Gabe faces some terrifying abuse), avoiding a too-happy ending, but Gabe and Paige’s supportive friendship and Gabe’s love of music shine through. Gabe spins Elvis, Devo, and Prince on the radio, and old media meets new as his fans come together via Facebook. It’s impossible not to root for Gabe as he finds the courage to live the life he wants. Ages 12–up. Agent: Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A kind and satisfyingly executed portrait." —Kirkus Reviews

"Every so often a book comes along that is so sharp, so moving, so real, and so good, you want to press it into everyone's hands and say, Read this! READ THIS!" —Courtney Summers, author of Cracked Up to Be and This is Not a Test

VOYA - Laurie Cavanaugh
As if high school is not hard enough for a loner and die-hard music geek, Gabe is a guy trapped in the body of a girl. In the spring of senior year, he has come out as a transsexual to his family and Paige, his only friend at school, where he is known as Elizabeth, or "that lesbo chick." After telling his neighbor John —a radio DJ and mentor in the radio business—Gabe plans to lie low until graduation, when he can move to the Twin Cities to begin life as a man. But his parents still call him "Elizabeth," his brother ignores him, and he blurts out his name as Gabe on his first late-night community radio show. When "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children" attracts a following at Elizabeth's school, Gabe is forced to decide whether to be Gabe to everyone or keep his true self hidden. This moving story of senior-year insecurity and bravery is told by Gabe who does not shy away from frank references to male and female genitalia, sexuality, slurs related to sexual orientation, combined with an overwhelming amount of music trivia. Reviewer: Laurie Cavanaugh
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Elizabeth Williams knows he has always been a guy, and if he can only get through graduation in a few weeks, he can begin his new life as Gabe. He is transitioning, but his family refuses to acknowledge him, and his classmates bully him. The only person who supports him is his BFF, Paige, and, predictably, he has a crush on her but can't take a chance on ruining their friendship. Gabe is a music geek, and his ultra-cool, grandfatherly neighbor John, a former DJ, lands him a community radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Gabe DJs as himself, and after working up the courage to tell John, who is fine with him being a "triangle," they put together a show about A sides and B sides, which becomes popular with the Ugly Children Brigade fan club and a running theme in the book. But when Gabe has a date with one of his fans, and she recognizes him as Liz, word spreads and some fans drop out of the Facebook club, while others get violent. When John is critically hurt defending Gabe at an Ugly Children event, the offenders are arrested, John's long-lost daughter shows up, Gabe's parents have a change of heart, and Paige and Gabe may have a chance together. While this transgender coming-of-age tale wraps up a bit too quickly, the quirky relationship between Gabe and John and their shared music obsession elevates this story above the average problem novel.—Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield
Kirkus Reviews
Readers first meet Gabe as he DJs his first community-radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. It is only after hearing Gabe's friend and neighbor John, a fellow music lover who worked as a DJ for forty years, use Gabe's birth name that readers learn that Gabe is transgender. Being trans, Gabe opines, is like being a 45 record with an A side and a B side. When the story opens, only a few people know about Gabe's B side; the rest see him as a girl. When Gabe's radio show becomes an underground hit, generating a difficult-to-believe-but-pleasing-to-imagine cadre of fans calling themselves the Ugly Children Brigade, Gabe's B side is pushed further into public view. There are dates failed and successful, a forcible outing, a heartfelt but refreshingly easy coming-out talk with John, and a pair of increasingly violent, threatening and genuinely scary enemies. While Gabe's coming-out process figures heavily into the story, it is, refreshingly, only one aspect of his experience. The show-stealer here is John, a unique, well-conceived, funny and loving figure whose enthusiasm for music and endless support for Gabe provides solidity and warmth amid the many changes Gabe experiences. A kind and satisfyingly executed portrait of a music-loving teen coming out as transgender. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
HL600L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Meet the Author

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the author of Minnesota Book Award finalist The Sky Always Hears Me And the Hills Don’t Mind and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Cronn-Mills received her doctorate degree from Iowa State University and currently teaches in North Mankato, Minnesota, where she lives with her husband and son.

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Beautiful Music for Ugly Children 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
“It’s 90.3, KZUK, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, you’re listening to Gabe at this late hour right here on community radio and I’m here for my listeners. So turn it up and sit back and listen to some Def Leppard, those boys of the 70’s.” It’s Gabe turn to show his style, at least behind the mike he’s himself or who he thinks he has become. He’s telling his story beside his mentor, neighbor and great friend John who he idolizes. Few people know Gabe as Gabe, most people know him as Elizabeth but using his fifty minutes of air time, he’s finally found a medium for which he can express himself and he feels free. Gabe lives a dual life, a life he hopes to shed once high school is over in the spring. At home, his parents are adjusting to his new gender and his best friend Paige has known since grade school that Elizabeth feels more comfortable in the male role. Since hitting the airwaves, things become more gratifying yet more complicated for Gabe. There is this rush, this adrenaline that ran through my veins when Gabe took to the airwaves. Gabe becomes like a bird in the sky, carefree and soaring, rising higher and higher in the sky, each week as he prepares to on for his listeners. Gabe creates a theme for each week’s songs and his messages to his audiences become more open and honest as the weeks progress, he’s becoming free to be who he truly is. His show is remarkable with such energy and commitment. A Facebook site is created based on his show and he adds requests of his listeners to perform tasks to show their support to his show. These groupies, the Ugly Children Brigade suddenly become a part of his life. Girls, friends and unfortunately, threats now enter his life and suddenly, things aren’t all rosy. Someone rained on his parade… of course they did. I wanted so much to reach into the book and tell Gabe that he can’t please everyone, to just enjoy himself and enjoy the ride. He wasn’t hurting anyone. People can be so judgmental. The silver lining was John. He was an amazing person. His story runs deep in the book with his own life, his relationship with Gabe’s family and how supportive he is of Gabe. John helps Gabe get a job and helps him get auditioned for a talent show. John is left in the dark about Gabe’s true identity, like the rest of the world until later, which surprised me. So many great parts in this book, as Gabe truly comes to understand himself and the world around him.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
Gabe, born Elizabeth, is getting ready to graduate from high school. He tells himself that he will be more honest with those around him once he graduates (meaning he will be "out" to everyone, not just his best friend Paige and his family). His gig as a DJ on a local radio station brings Gabe fans he could never imagine; his paying job at a record store brings surprises. Gabe's musical mentor, his neighbor John, plays a big role in getting Gabe to come to terms with who he is and what he wants to be. A great book for both transgender and non-transgender youth. Adult readers who happen upon the story will appreciate the musical references of their past. A caution about references to both male and female anatomy, underage drinking, homophobia, and some violence which may not be approved by some adults for younger teens. However, these references are spot-on for the topic and definitely support the storyline.
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is an amazing, beautiful novel. The more I think about it, the more I love it. The book is about Gabe and not just about his coming out as transgender. It's about his passionate love for music, his relationships, and his anxieties and fears. There are scenes in the book that make you laugh out loud and others that make your eyes all teary. I love Gabe as a character and really like the different artists and songs that are brought up in the story. I'm a huge music fan myself so it was really nice to read about the different tunes. I honestly couldn't put the book down. I got it yesterday from the library and it was impossible for me to take breaks from the story. I wish there were more books like this one, especially in the YA genre. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is definitely going in my favorites list and I will definitely read Kirstin Cronn-Mills' other books. I wish I could write more, but like I've said before, it's so hard for me to write reviews of books that I love so much. This is one of those times.