Sunday, April 9, 2017

noteworthy: stardust arc reviews

by Riley Redgate


release date: May 2 by Amulet


It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped ... 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.

full review under the cut! 

 I'd like to thank Amulet for allowing me to read a copy of this book! If you've heard of this one, you've probably seen it described as "the love child of She's the Man and Pitch Perfect," and it is my firm belief that this is the absolute most perfect description of this book. If you're into really funny characters that relate to one another in easy and hilarious ways, cross-dressing shenanigans, a cappella, and great diverse rep told by an #ownvoice, then you'll definitely want to check this one out when it comes out next month. I had an absolute blast reading this one, I'm still not over how funny, heart-warming, and well-written it was!

The basic premise of this book is this: Jordan Sun is a scholarship student from an extremely poor California family, attending an incredibly prestigious performing arts school in upstate New York. Jordan's love lies in musical theater, but it hardly seems to love her back. As a second alto (that's the lowest female voice in the choir for those of you who are clueless about music), Jordan has never been able to find her place in the performances. All of the female roles feel all wrong for her too-tall, boyish, too-deep voice and body. Just as Jordan is on the brink of depair, the fall of her junior year, the school gets a mass email. There is an opening in the Sharpshooters: the best all-male a cappella group on campus. The Sharpshooters and idolized as celebrities on campus, and Jordan knows that it is ridiculous for her to entertain thoughts of joining them. But, desperate, Jordan auditions as Julian Sun, male tenor 1, and unexpectedly lands the spot. As Jordan's life becomes a series of ever more complicated changes between her boy persona and her girl self, and as she begins to feel a real connection to the rest of the Sharpshooters, Jordan is forced to confront real truths about herself and her place in school. She also has to learn a lot about a cappella, wigs, and trying to act like a boy while being subjected to uterus crushing cramps, but that's all part of the fun.

I absolutely loved the characters in this one. That was the basis of this book's appeal. Of course, there's Jordan, who is a really great MC. Though there were times when I thought she acted stupid, there was never a time when I wasn't rooting for her 100%. I thought her struggle with fitting into a standard of femininity was incredibly moving and relatable, probably for a lot of girls who don't feel like they fit into the boxes set before them. I really loved this part of her character, and I just thought it was so funny as she tried to transition back and forth from her boy costume to her girl self. Then, of course, there were the Sharpshooters. Laid-back, confident president Isaac, uptight musical genius Trav, sweet, supportive Nihal, Jon Cox and Mama: the best best friends there ever were, eager, involved Marcus, and preppy Erik. These boys were so GREAT! I loved the friendships that existed between them, from the seniors to the freshman, and I just felt like it was a really amazing portrayal of positive and invested male friendships. I also thought the representation in this book was amazing. Jordan is Chinese-American and bisexual, Isaac is Japanese-American I believe, Nihal is Indian and gay, and Jon Cox has a learning disability, just to start off. And it was even better because I didn't feel like these characters had these qualities just to check off a box, but these traits were genuinely useful in understanding them as characters, and they were all treated with respect and love by the author. I also really liked that Jordan's cross-dressing led to a lot of meaningful and thoughtful discussion by the author about trans issues. Jordan is incredibly sensitive to the fact that what she is doing is something that is often incredibly scary for many trans people, and she tries to be as respectful as possible of that fact. I just thought everything in this book was incredibly well-done, nothing felt fake, it was all really seamlessly folded into the larger story, which was the world of a cappella. Even the main antagonist had a really fleshed out backstory, and you could almost see why he would act the way he does.

Aside from the characters, the plot of this book is a ton of fun. First of all, I think there is a ton of inherent drama folded into the fact that Jordan is cross-dressing as a boy in an a cappella group that has a lot of history attached to it as being all male. If she gets caught, there is no telling what will happen to her. So I thought the moments of near-misses and almost being found out had a hightened sense of drama and also a sort of giddy hilarity to them. Also, I loved that Jordan was a girl getting a front row seat to what boys are actually like when they think they're alone. There is the aforementioned really painfully relatable and hilarious spell when Jordan is on her period and has to disguise this from the boys. I really loved the genuine friendships that form not only between the boys but also between Jordan and the guys. I was really interested in the whole a cappella world and all of the work that went into making them sound as good as possible. Also, there is a great rivalry, complete with pranks, between the guys and another a cappella group, so that was also a ton of fun.

I thought this book was really thoughtful, covering a ton of topics that should be more prevalent in YA today, but also it had an amazingly hilarious and fun side as well! I am obsessed with music, so it definitely had that to pull me in, but I don't think you have to be in order to enjoy this one. There is so much in here to love, that I definitely think that fans of fun contemporary should try it!


No comments:

Post a Comment

80% Read the Printed Word!