Noteworthy by Riley Redgate | Review

May 2, 2017 / 6 Comments / Review

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate | ReviewNoteworthy

Author: Riley Redgate
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: May 2nd 2017
Source: Scholastic Canada (thank you!)
Format: ARC
My rating:
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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:

Noteworthy OST by Riley Redgate

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!

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6 responses to “Noteworthy by Riley Redgate | Review

  1. I was already planning on heading to the shops to buy this today, but now that you’ve said that the Sharpshooters are meant to sound like The Sons of Pitches, I’m even more excited! (They won an a capella show in the UK two years ago, and I’ve loved them since). The whole premise of the book sounds so good too, and I’m definitely going to have listen to the songs throughout – that’s such a good idea. Great review!

  2. Sam

    Fantastic review! I enjoyed this book, and it ended up being a lot deeper than I expected for just about all the reasons you mentioned. My big picture take away, was about Jordan’s struggle with belonging, and I loved that she was able to discover so many wonderful and amazing things about herself over the course of this book. I loved the bromance with the Sharpshooters too.
    Sam @ WLABB

  3. This definitely sounds like an interesting book, and I’ve been eyeing it for a while not, but I was kind of disappointed by Seven Ways We Lie so I’m not sure if I’m going to read it or not. I probably will, because the cover and the synopsis sound absolutely incredible, and I really want to see what the author has done with this one. I’m super glad to see that you liked it. Amazing review!

  4. HIlda

    All of this ^, you’re review and all these comments just convinced me I need to read this book!! What a good review!

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