Konigsberg's depiction of depression is nuanced and authentic. He doesn't shy away from the pain of mental illness. While there is hope, there are no easy fixes…Konigsberg's novel, at its heart, is about finding a way through the worst moments, with treatment and support systems…Aaron and Tillie wonder about the escape, but also about the pain and the possible nothingness afterward.
The Bridge shows the positive reality of their material existence, and of their rich connections to those around them, even to people they don't knoweven perhaps to the readers of this book…
The New York Times Book Review - Katy Hershberger
The Music of What Happens), a suicide survivor aiming for “a complete discussion of suicide,” per an author’s note, tells this iterative story of 17-year-olds crossing paths on the George Washington Bridge, where both are considering jumping. Depressed Aaron Boroff, who is white, dreams of music fame and having a boyfriend; he is “deeply sick of himself and his stupid brain” and can’t imagine that changing. Korean-born adoptee Tillie Stanley’s convinced that she’s weak and unlovable; she’s been ghosted by the guy she was seeing, bullied by an ex-friend, and her father’s basically pretending she doesn’t exist. Alternatingly following Aaron, Tillie, and the people affected by their deaths—including those who never got to know them—the story is told several ways: with each, both, and neither jumping. Ending on a hopeful note, the book depicts Aaron and Tillie bonding and trying to keep each other going. Konigsberg’s approach underscores depression’s coercive power and the gifts of human connection, and he sharpens a universal story by populating it with distinctly individual characters. An author’s note and resources for people experiencing suicidal ideation conclude. Ages 14–up. Agent: Linda Epstein, Emerald City Literary. (Sept.)
Gr 9 Up—Aaron and Tillie don't know each other, but on the same day, at the same time, they both find themselves on the edge of the George Washington Bridge, with the same intentions. Aaron, who is white and Jewish, is comfortable being gay, but he struggles with depression and loneliness. Tillie, who is Korean American, doesn't feel like she can ever be good enough, and it doesn't help when people remind her. The day at the bridge has four possible outcomes: Tillie jumps and Aaron doesn't, Aaron jumps but not Tillie, they both jump, or they both decide to get down from that ledge and walk away. An intriguing book that captures not just different possible outcomes of a situation but also how it affects others. Told in the third person, this book moves among multiple character's perspectives, not just Tillie and Aaron's. The book is divided into four parts that explore each of the outcomes and how the characters handle what happened. While three of the sections are done well, the section in which they both jump is lacking—Konigsberg spends just a couple pages directly following their deaths and the narrative makes multiple awkward and confusing time jumps. In the end, though, this book handles mental health and suicide well and offers readers a realistic look at how one's choices impact others. VERDICT While not for every reader, those who need this book will find value in it.— Amanda Borgia, Uniondale P.L., NY
Multiple realities explore the butterfly effects of two attempted teen suicides.
Each of the narrative’s alternate timelines starts the same way: Aaron Boroff and Tillie Stanley meet by coincidence at the George Washington Bridge. Both contemplate leaping into the Hudson River to end their lives—“facing each other like they’re playing a deadly game of dare.” Aaron, a White gay boy with a Christian mom and a Jewish dad who dreams of viral internet success as a singer/songwriter, feels he is a failure both musically and romantically. Tillie, a fat, adopted, Korean girl, has had enough of feeling out of place in her White family and being bullied at school. From there, the four linear timelines (presented one after the other) diverge into four possible outcomes: only Tillie jumps, only Aaron jumps, they both jump, or neither jumps. No outcome is presented as the true story, leaving readers to come to their own conclusions. Drawing from personal experience, Konigsberg’s portrayal of depression is raw, honest, and nuanced. The deftly navigated third-person–omniscient narration powerfully evokes spiraling, obsessive thoughts and manic episodes. In addition to the focal teens’ inner monologues, secondary characters—from family members to classmates—are sharply drawn and complicated. Though some plot points only happen in certain timelines, the text’s careful construction hints that the best possible outcome is the teens’ survival.
A heartbreaking bridge into depression supported by a strong foundation of hope. (author’s note, resources)
Praise for The Music of What Happens:
* "Konigsberg demonstrates once again why he is one of the major voices in LGBTQ literature." Booklist, starred review * "Give to fans of Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. A first purchase for public and high school libraries." School Library Journal, starred review "The result is a story with imperfect characters who are, refreshingly, called out on problematic behaviors and aim to do better. A fresh addition to the menu of queer teenage love stories." Kirkus Reviews "Konigsberg explores how conventional ideas about masculinity trap young men into believing they must act a certain way... A fun, romantic, and moving novel." Publishers Weekly "Readers seeking an unusually thoughtful gay-positive romance will find this moving." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "This book offers an interesting perspective on growing up and coming-of-age by crafting two main characters who offer unique points of view for an often underserved audience. This is a much-needed book in every high school library." School Library Connection "With The Music of What Happens, Bill Konigsberg serves up a profound examination of masculinity, consent, and relationships through the eyes of two of the most endearing narrators I've ever read. Jordan and Max are vulnerable, sweet, funny, and flawed. Teens, whether they identify as LGBTQIA+ or not, are lucky to have this book in their lives." Shaun David Hutchinson, author of We Are the Ants "The Music of What Happens is a compelling, laugh-out-loud story, as swoon-worthy as it is deeply affecting. Max and Jordan grabbed hold of my heart from the moment I met them and I don't see them letting go any time soon. Konigsberg has a way of making me see the world and food trucks! a little differently." David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Mosquitoland and The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik "Bill Konigsberg has a way of creating characters that could be your next door neighbor, your best friend, or that cute boy who once helped you change a flat tire. Max and Jordan will find their way into your heart, and after the last page, you'll regret that they aren't real. Once you start reading The Music of What Happens, you won't be able to stop." Brigid Kemmerer, author of Letters to the Lost