The Music of What Happens - Bill Konigsberg

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn't want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His "wives" and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won't like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he's the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they're willing to risk -- to get the thing they want the most.

This is a phenomenal book, in my humble opinion. There aren't too many books dealing with male sexual abuse, particularly in YA. Sex and sexuality are messy parts of young adulthood, but what this book does really well is discuss consent and the ways in which physical cues can be misinterpreted, but that our bodies can also betray us (someone can be be saying No but they're body may be physically responding very differently.) This is not, by any means, the only issue at play within the narrative, but it is handled very well and it just stands out for me.

Furthermore, the novel delves into racial microaggressions (particularly how humor and joking often get used as excuses for racism) and fetishizing young gay men in mainstream culture (particularly the Gay Best Friend trope!) I really enjoyed the confusing and tender relationship that builds between Max and Jordan throughout the book, especially as they also try to navigate their new food truck business. The way that Konigsberg handles Jordan's mom's gambling addiction is also realistic but terribly heartbreaking.

And one last thing that I want to ensure I touch on, it is the expectations around masculinity and what it means to be a man in various cultural contexts and family situations. Max is a jock and is expected to show little emotion and be incredibly sexual (his friends joke constantly about him getting laid). And Jordan's mother expects him to be "the man" of the house and the breadwinner, even though he is still a teenager. There are certain stereotypes placed on queer individuals in YA, quite often without us even thinking about them consciously, so seeing Konigsberg address this so directly through his characters is refreshing!

There is really just so much to appreciate about the subjects that Konigsberg addresses, as well as they way that he approaches them with such nuance. Check in out in January 2019!

Highly Recommended

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