Themes: Summer, Romance, Humour
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Released: February 26, 2019
I’m a huge fan of Bill Konigsberg and have devoured all his books, but I think this one might just be my favourite. Talk about a read that put my emotions through the mincer! I experienced every one of the ups and downs throughout the course of this story, my heart alternately breaking for the heroes and swelling with hope for them. Reaching the end was like being enveloped in the softest, most fleecy blanket imaginable, and even a few days after finishing it, I feel all gooey inside.
As anyone who follows my reviews will know, I have an incurable weakness for summer romances, so much so that I went ahead and wrote one of my own. The promise that characterises the beginning of summer, the sense of the days stretching ahead filled with untapped possibility, never fails to draw me in, and The Music of What Happens was no exception. For me, in fact, with its blend of gritty realism, believable characters, and laugh-out-loud humour, this novel is something rather special.
What really sets this story apart is the heroes, namely that they’re so utterly different from one another. On the one hand you have Max—cool, capable, and with a tendency to bottle his feelings—while on the other, there’s Jordan—shy, awkward, and weighed down by a negative outlook stemming from low self-esteem. But for a chance encounter their paths might never have crossed, and yet once they meet, their chemistry and the way they complement and spark off each other is undeniable.
My review also wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the supporting characters. I adored Max’s mum, whose warmth and strength creates a stark contrast to Jordan’s mum’s gambling addiction and inability to cope, which was devastating to watch. Then there are the protagonist’s best friends, Jordan’s female BFFs and Max’s baseball bros. All feisty and larger-than-life, they’re responsible for much of the hilarious banter, and although far from perfect, they come through when it really matters.
One of the things I love most about Bill’s books is that they’re genuinely funny. Several times while I was reading this, my partner came in from the other room curious to know what on earth I was laughing at. Yet, for all its humour, this novel undoubtedly has a serious side. The author touches on a range of sensitive subjects—rape, addiction, low self-esteem, parental neglect—but always, even in the darkest moments, the writing manages to convey an air of hope.
For a poignant novel that effortlessly combines wit with some important issues, and an opposites-attract romance which is as authentic as it is sweet, The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg gets 10/10 rainbows!
About the Book
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.
Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.
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.
About Bill Konigsberg
Bill lives with his husband, Chuck, and their two Australian Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford, who complete them. Before Bill was a fiction writer (and long before he ever referred to himself in the third person), he was a sports writer. As an openly gay guy working in sports, he spoke at countless venues across the country on what it’s like to be a gay person in the world of sports. He has written for The New York Times, New York Daily News, North Jersey Herald and News and Denver Post, to name a few. His work has also appeared in Out Magazine.
Bill is the author of five published novels. Out of the Pocket, his 2008 debut, won the Lambda Literary Award. Openly Straight won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor. The Porcupine of Truth won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award. Honestly Ben, the sequel to Openly Straight, was released in 2017 and received three starred reviews. His latest novel, The Music of What Happens was released in February,2019.