Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA Contemporary
Distinctive qualities: Bisexual Chinese-American main character, who pretends to be a boy so she can join an a capella group, amazing friendships, set in a performing arts high school.
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.
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.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Noteworthy!
“But,” she went on, “remember. It’s the greatest strength to know your weaknesses. It just means you have a question to answer: How hard will you work to get what you want? And that’s the heart of it: from your career, from your time here, from everything, really—what do you want?” I stayed quiet. The world, I thought. The whole world, gathered up in my arms.
The main two words I would use to describe Noteworthy are “relatable” and “fun.” While the relatable part might not apply to everyone, I think anyone who enjoys reading YA contemporary might end up laughing a few times while reading this book. The book had the kind of sense of humor that’s understated and needs context but is still amazing. I kept wanting to update my Goodreads status with all of the quotes that I found funny, but they wouldn’t have made sense without context.
The characters were by far the best part of the story. It took me a little while to get to like Jordan, but as she grew more and more comfortable and confident in who she was, the more I rooted for her. The Sharps were great characters too, and I loved every single one of them. My only complaint is that I wish we’d gotten more backstory on some of the characters, but they were still fleshed out enough that you kind of got a sense of who they were and why they were that way.
Kensington, probably because it was an arts school, was such an overwhelmingly liberal place when it came to social issues—I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have that sort of opinion around campus. Or anywhere, really. It was a strange thing to have an opinion on somebody else’s existence.
Something that I appreciated a lot about Noteworthy is that it is more diverse than most books. Most of the students at Kensington are white (around 55-60% of them, judging by something Jordan thought about near the beginning). However, Jordan herself is Chinese, bisexual and poor. One of the members of the Sharps that is more involved in Jordan’s story is Indian, Sikh and gay; another has a Japanese surname (Nakahara), so I’m guessing he is Japanese (though it’s never specified). Jordan’s father is paraplegic. And, very importantly, while Jordan is a girl pretending to be a boy, trans identities are recognized.
The plot of the story was interesting and unique (I mean, had you ever heard of a book in which a girl pretends to be a boy to join an a cappella group?). Some moments were kind of hard to believe, but the story was so engaging that I just did not care. I’m a slow reader, but I read most of the book in one day; it was too good to stop reading. I thought Noteworthy was going to be a five star book.
There came a point, though, at around 60% of the book, where I lost interest. I didn’t feel as excited to read and had to force myself to keep going. I stopped reading for the night with only one chapter left because I was no longer interested enough. This is actually a normal thing for me with most books, so maybe other people won’t have this problem. Ultimately, I gave it four of five stars.
If you love YA contemporary and are interested in music (or even acting) at all, this book is a must-read. Oh, and I totally recommend listening to the soundtrack either before reading the book or when you reach the scenes in which the songs are mentioned!
“It’s kind of funny,” Isaac said.
“It…” He paused. “I mean, we’re so comically, laughably tiny. You know? The universe is expanding forever, and there are nebulas a hundred billion miles away, like, spectacularly shitting out stars, and suns collapsing every twenty seconds, and essentially what I’m trying to say is that we’re the tiniest speck of dust on an infinite space plain and our lives are these insignificant little minuscule pinpricks on the timeline.”