Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Noteworthy by Riley RedgateNoteworthy by Riley Redgate
Published by Amulet Books on May 2, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…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.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Noteworthy came out of left field and knocked me out. Obviously I’d been looking forward to the diverse acapella contemporary romance because hellooooo have you met me, but I hadn’t heard too much buzz surprisingly and was keeping my expectations fairly low. This is one of those books that built on me; I thought it was great from the start but a bit emotionally detached and then by the end I’d turned into a squishy marshmallow of emotion.

Redgate delivers on the Pitch Perfect inspired premise. Like Pitch PerfectNoteworthy is hilarious, full of lovable awesome nerds and important arcs about friendship, and jam-packed with music. Unlike Pitch PerfectNoteworthy is all about representation, tolerance, and gender roles. The premise may be a bit more outlandish than Pitch Perfect‘s, but the execution is much more realistic and intense.

It’s a little bit like someone looked into my head and created a book that was perfectly me. Noteworthy has a bisexual gender bending heroine and centers on a bunch of bantery weirdos who are perfect and flawed and wonderful. I love the things this book chooses to be and to do.

Jordan’s an amazing heroine with a really strong voice, but she takes a little while to get there. From the start, I was hooked by the book, but I didn’t realize I was in love with it until it was too late to pinpoint precisely when it had happened. Because she’d been wrapped up in a romance with an older student, Jordan starts her junior year without friends and frustrated at failing to land yet another part in a musical (she’s too tall, too Asian, her voice too deep).

There’s some suspension of disbelief that’s needed for the plot; after a couple of chapters, I gave in and really didn’t question it. Jordan crossdresses, availing herself of her theatrical skills and the school’s wardrobe department, and joins one of the school’s all-male acapella groups as Julian Zhang. Just accept that no one checks to make sure this person is a student. Also accept that Jordan, for no explained reason, has a single while no one else seems to, despite the fact that Jordan’s family very much could not have paid for one. I’m willing to get over most anything for a gender bending plot tbh. That said, I really appreciate that Jordan’s features are described as being more androgynous, and it did feel truly possible for her to fool people.

As happens with genderbending heroines since Shakespeare, in her disguise Jordan learns to be comfortable with who she is. She finds herself coming out of her shell, opening up, becoming more assertive and confident in her guise, and that all seeps into her actual self too. It is, of course, also a look at gender roles and the privilege that males receive. Jordan also considers the potential problematic elements of her use of crossdressing to achieve her aims, which was very thoughtful and unique for the genderbending stuff I’ve read.

All eight of the Sharpshooters are so incredibly precious, and I want to hug all of those little weirdos. Several of them have subplots, and many of them are quite well-developed. I have special love for Nihal and Isaac and Trav; I would absolute LOVE a spin-off book about Nihal. *coughs*

The romance flirts with the idea of a bisexual love triangle, though I wouldn’t say it actually is a love triangle per se. View Spoiler »

The resolutions cranks into place a bit abruptly. I’d have liked a bit more from the ending, though that could all be resolved by a sequel about Nihalllllllll just sayinggggggggg. Things don’t end up in a neat little bow that’s for sure. Plotwise, I have some minor quibbles (which seriously all have to do with the rivalry and the Caskeys and surely this means there will be a sequel SURELY) but I do appreciate across the board the way that Redgate almost always chose the least dramatic way to handle things. The inevitable blow ups you expect don’t fall out as they typically do, which is something I always really love (when it’s believable).

Without a doubt, you will be seeing Noteworthy on my end of year faves post, if I’m not too lazy to write it. I have so many feelings rn. And I will be borrowing the insult “you sentient walnut.”

Favorite Quote:

I loosened up and tried to walk like a dude, at which point I discovered I had no clue how dudes are supposed to walk. It took me the entire journey to figure out a gait that didn’t look like a velociraptor pretending to be a West Side Story character.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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