Book Review: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children – Kirstin Cronn-Mills


‘This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. 

I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.’ 

Gabe is not your typical teenage boy, his best friend is a girl,

when he’s not hanging out with her he’s at his neighbours house listening to original LPs and learning the radio tricks of the trade from an old man. Oh and Gabe was born Elizabeth, which I wouldn’t mention apart from it plays a big part in the story. Like many of us Gabe finds a love in music that can rival no other, well apart from a certain someone, but I’ll leave you to get to that yourself.

The intriguing name and bright cover is what initially drew me to this book, but I got so much more. Not only do you get a wealth of music knowledge from reading this novel but you also get a character to fall in love with, I felt so much for Gabe and almost cried at points while reading. Gabe describes himself as being ‘like a record’ he has an A side and a B side, one side is Elizabeth which is who everyone else considers him to be and the B side is Gabe, who he is truly happy to be. While the world is fighting for him to be Elizabeth, there’s a another crowd who is more than happy to have Gabe around. Gabe’s saving grace comes through a radio show that he hosts, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. 

It was really refreshing in this novel to have both sides of what being Transgender means. While some people are not supportive and as the blurb says think Gabe is ‘crazy’ there are also many people who couldn’t care less about Gabe’s transition and just see him as a great DJ. I don’t know about you but those are the kinds of people I’d rather be around. Cronn-Mills has done a great job in exploring a sensitive topic and trying to go down many avenues.

I think the real gold lies with the A-Side, B-Side idea within the novel. Cronn-Mills has found a way to connect everyone with Gabe, even if they aren’t going through transition. It’s the idea that everyone has two sides to them  one they want to show to the world and one the world sees. This is the beauty of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children with just a voice on a radio station everyone is the same and I really wish life was like that. I also adored the characters of Paige and John. They’re completely different but their support for Gabe is incredible.

I’m going to give this novel 5 stars *****, it’s absolutely incredible. Gabe is an incredible character that I dare you not to love. I also appreciated that Gabe and the people around him were flawed in different ways, it made the story a lot more believable and realistic to me as a reader. I’m really looking forward to reading some of Cronn – Mills other works as she really does have a talent in creating her characters.

Review by Chloe Metzger

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