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. But 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.
Wow, wow, wow. If you are not putting Noteworthy on your to-be-read list right now, you are missing out.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adored this a cappella-themed diverse, contemporary YA novel. It’s way WAY more than I expected it to be. I mean, yes, it’s a cute premise (cross-dressing to join a boys a cappella group? GIVE IT TO ME). Yes, it has an incredibly diverse and honest cast. Yes, it’s #ownvoices.
But all of that doesn’t tell you just how deep author Riley Redgate goes to create rounded characters – characters who live and breathe and question their own identity constantly. Jordan, of course, is the one we hear from the most. She’s the protagonist and the MC – and she’s the one who adopts alter-ego Julian in order to sing with the best all-male a cappella group on campus, the Sharpshooters.
According to Riley Redgate, this is what the Sharpshooters are supposed to sound like!
In doing so, Jordan begins to change herself – not just physically – but her whole attitude and outlook on gender. This is a book of extreme self-discovery, one that sees Jordan questioning her own desire to be a girl, whether she’s co-opting someone else’s personality, and whether she’s being selfish or not.
Jordan’s adventures are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny – because honestly, the craziness of trying to pull off this scheme is sometimes unbelievable. But as the book goes on, the story becomes achingly real and emotional and raw. Noteworthy mines its main characters to the core, plows down their walls, questions their ideals. This is a book that gets to the heart of music, poverty, and pain, and drags you back out again.
I’ve never read anything that mines teen identity, gender and sexual orientation this deeply or this well. And I’ve never read anything that so effortlessly combines all of those things – along with poverty, race, and social class. This is a book with true intersectionality, without being in your face about it. It just is.
And I haven’t even gotten to the absolute brilliance of Riley Redgate’s poetic, thoughtful prose, or the amazing soundtrack she wrote to accompany the book. I haven’t gotten to the whole issue of the traditions of the arts school they all attend – and how those traditions get praised and twisted. I haven’t gotten to how even the “villains” in this book get thoughtfully unpacked.
And with all of that, it’s still adorable. You will fall so hard for the Sharpshooter boys and their bromances. You’ll appreciate and be frustrated by their rivalry with their nemesis a cappella group, the Minuets. You will see yourself in how lonely and vulnerable Jordan feels after she loses her ex. And you’ll have moments of total swoon because the romance in this is so damn good, I can’t even.
Book Theme Song:
My good friend Joey from Thoughts and Afterthoughts suggested that I listen to Riley Redgate’s songs from the book as I was reading. It totally helped me get into the spirit of the book. One suggestion, though – do NOT listen to “Halloween” until after it plays in the book. I tried to listen to it while reading and it was distracting because the song – and the book – deserve your full attention.
The Final Word:
Guys, Noteworthy is my sleeper hit of 2017. With a capella, a phenomenal cast of guys and girls, boarding school, and diversity in every possible way, it’s got a little something for everyone. It’s a packed book that feels like I felt in high school – overwhelmed, driven, angsty, but also searching for those moments of levity and light that make everything worth it. At 400 pages, it’s a longer YA, but by the end of it, I just wanted to start all over again.
NOTEWORTHY is out in bookstores today! Will you be reading it? Do you like a capella music? Would you ever cross-dress to get what you really wanted? Let me know in the comments!