Konigsberg (The Porcupine of Truth) explores how conventional ideas about masculinity trap young men into believing they must act a certain way. Handsome, smart, and athletic, Max is good at a lot of things, in particular hiding his feelings and smiling through anything (“Warrior up,” his dad used to say). Shy, unathletic Jordan doesn’t have much to smile about: his father died, his mother is a mess, and they could soon lose their house. Both guys are 17 and go to the same school, but Jordan sees Max as just another “Dude Bro”: it never occurs to him that Max is gay, too. When Max ends up helping Jordan reinvent his father’s food truck business, the two become friends. Jordan can’t imagine that someone like Max could like him; Max struggles to face the truth about sexual violence that he experienced in the past. Both want their relationships with their friends to be more honest, but they don’t know how to change things. Konigsberg ups the stakes as the teens improve their food truck game, become more vulnerable (Max) and more confident (Jordan), and learn to ask for what they want, making for a fun, romantic, and moving novel. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
Gr 10 Up—Max is a popular high school athlete who spends most of his free time with his two best friends, playing video games and joking around. Max has a secret, though, that he hasn't told anyone, not even his buddies, and he's trying to be the fighter his father raised him to be. Jordan is attempting to help his mom with their food truck. Jordan hires Max to work the food truck with him, and two boys who thought they had nothing in common find that they are more alike than they thought. This story has an easy, conversational tone, and the high jinks of the two boys and their separate groups of friends, in addition to their budding romance, provide much-needed relief from the intensity of the scenes in which each of them is dealing with his individual struggles. Some readers may be turned off by Max and his buddies and their "locker room talk," occasionally resorting to homophobic slurs. Max grapples with understanding whether he has actually been raped and what he should do about it; the consequences of the rape also cause him to question the lessons his father taught him as a young child. While the author makes clear what happened to Max, the assault is not described in graphic detail. In spite of this novel's focus on heavier topics, its readability and relatability will make it popular among most teens. Give to fans of Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. VERDICT A first purchase for public and high school libraries.—Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI
Two Arizona teens run a food truck and fall in love with more than just cooking together.
"Dude Bro" Max is a "closet foodie" and keeps his culinary aspirations secret from "the Amigos," his close-knit duo of friends. But a chance encounter at a classmate's struggling food truck sees heroics-prone Max volunteering as an employee. Though the classmate, Jordan, is a jock-hating "emo kid," the pair proves that opposites do indeed attract—even in the cramped confines of a food truck. As it turns out, the two also make excellent (if a bit unorthodox) business partners. They earn enough money to pay off debts from Jordan's widowed mother's gambling addiction. Alternating first-person narration delves deeply into the complicated inner lives of the two boys as their relationship blossoms. Flashbacks reveal Max's trauma following a rape at a college party. Meanwhile, Jordan fights his feelings of inadequacy and his growing resentment toward his mother. As Max is biracial (Mexican/white) while Jordan is white, Konigsberg (Honestly Ben, 2017, etc.) effectively reverses the white savior narrative to instead position a character of color as the one offering help—although ultimately the narrative questions what it means to be a savior at all in the context of this mutually supportive and healing relationship. 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. (Fiction. 13-adult)
* "Konigsberg demonstrates once again why he is one of the major voices in LGBTQ literature." Booklist, starred review* "Give to fans of Benjamin Alire Saenz'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." BCCB"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 worldand 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