Title: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children I Author: Kristin Cronn-Mills I Publisher: Flux
Young Adult literature is defined by the American Library Association as fiction that would be appropriate for children between the ages of 12 to 18. A branch of the American Library Association known as the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offers the following synopsis for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children:
Everyone knows the A side of a record but it's time for everyone to know the B side.
Actual Plot Summary: As always, beware YALSA's abridged synopses…Liz has just scored her first work as a DJ from her elderly neighbor (John) who works for the local community radio station KZUK. This should be a dream come true for Liz but her enthusiasm is diminished by the fact the Liz believes that she is a young man trapped in a young woman's body. She would rather be referred to as "Gabe." She has felt this way since kindergarten when she was forced to line up with the girls instead of the boys. She has plans for obtaining a sex change operation and legally changing her name from Elizabeth Mary to Gabriel Joseph…apparently on the unlimited salary that the position of disc jockey will afford. Thank goodness for Obamacare. These expensive medical procedures will surely be free.
Liz/Gabe is weeks away from graduation and has revealed her secret identity to her less than enthusiastic family, her best friend (Paige) and now John. With John's blessing, Liz/Gabe goes on the air as "Gabe." After a bombastic rant to the town's social misfits about letting their "B" side show, Liz/Gabe immediately gains an enthusiastic following from local high school listeners and college students for her once-a-week gig. Her fans start a Facebook fan page called the Ugly Children Brigade and every week Liz/Gabe sends out her marching orders on different ways that the group can support the show through public vandalism. The UCB then takes pictures and posts them to the fan page.
Liz/Gabe gains her first groupie (Mara) who asks Liz/Gabe out on a date by calling the station. This should be a dream come true for Liz/Gabe but her enthusiasm is diminished by the fact Mara believes that Liz/Gabe is a guy. After some hesitation, Liz/Gabe agrees. Mara doesn't recognize Liz/Gabe from school or that Liz/Gabe is a female, but Liz/Gabe does know Mara from school and fails to tell Mara that she is a biological woman. In spite of the chest binder that Liz/Gabe uses to flatten her breasts, her masculine haircut and attire, Mara figures out that she's crushing on a woman after their second meeting. Humiliated, Mara posts on the fan page and outs Liz/Gabe once and for all.
In the meantime, Liz/Gabe is becoming increasingly attracted to best friend/fashion diva Paige and Paige is sending mixed signals to Liz/Gabe in spite of the fact that she is currently dating a Goth-boy named Bobby X.
Moreover, the school's most popular girl (Heather) finds this newly revealed side of Liz/Gabe to be desirable and texts Liz/Gabe to see whether they can go out sometime. Heather breaks up with her boyfriend (Paul) who has been working with his best buddy (Kyle) to mock Liz/Gabe throughout their years in high school over Liz/Gabe's masculine attire and mannerisms. Paul doesn't take being dumped for a girl very well. He and Kyle begin donning "Jason" and "Scream" personas to stalk, cyber stalk and physically abuse and sexually assault Liz/Gabe.
After John obtains the DJ gig for Liz/Gabe, he also manages to get Liz/Gabe a job at a local record store so that Liz/Gabe can be around the music that she loves. Per the tedious theme of this book, this should be a dream come true for Liz/Gabe but her enthusiasm is diminished by the fact that she will have to work under her social security number which legally recognizes her as a female. The store owner explains that other than the legalities, he doesn't really care what Liz/Gabe's nametag says as long as she does her job. This should also be a dream come true for Liz/Gabe but her enthusiasm is diminished by the fact that her school friends might recognize her and make fun of her for donning a "Gabe" name badge.
In addition to the DJ gig and the job that John has secured for Liz/Gabe, he sends in a contest application to a popular radio station in Liz's name so that she might win an opportunity for a guest spot on the station. This should be a dream come true for Liz/Gabe but her enthusiasm is diminished by the fact that John applied for her using the name "Liz." Liz/Gabe writes to the station and explains that she is transitioning from Liz to Gabe and would like to change the application to reflect that fact. They write back to "Gabe" welcoming her to the second phase of the contest. Liz/Gabe needs to DJ in front of a live audience with four other contestants to see which person will win the coveted prize.
The reader is treated to a flashback of Liz/Gabe attempting suicide when she begins menstruating, and the reader will take on the role of voyeur as Liz/Gabe urinates in the men's room, receives a mail-order male prosthetic which Paige helps her try on, and details her imaginary male arousal over Paige's, Heather's and Mara's quasi-sexual advances.
The story climaxes with "Jason" and "Scream" coming at Liz/Gabe with a baseball bat and accidently hitting John which sends him into a comatose state. Liz/Gabe performs poorly at the radio contest as a result and loses the position as guest DJ. She then decides to attend the local community college. John comes out of his coma. Paige and Liz/Gabe kiss but they will never be lovers. Heather and Liz/Gabe kiss but they will never be lovers. Mom and dad come to accept Liz/Gabe's decisions. John gives Liz/Gabe a check for $25,000 to help fund…whatever.
This young adult book has earned a Mature Content rating because it contains adult portrayals of romantic relationships that contain sexual components. This YA novel also contains persistent and extreme profanity, extremely anti-social behavior and mature depictions of extreme depression, gender confusion, graphic sexual assault scenes and underage alcohol and cigarette usage. It receives two stars for story development.
Review : The author provides her 12 to 18 year old reader with at least one hundred and seventy-seven uses of extreme profanity. She celebrates and encourages elements of anarchistic behavior. She rewards her character's narcissism and anti-social behaviors with regard to interpersonal relationships with a sympathy that is simply not deserved. As a side note, it would be helpful if so-called well educated authority figures would perform their roles as mentors with an ounce of circumspection.
Confusion, gender or otherwise, and depression do not represent an engraved invitation to wreak havoc on the lives of everyone that surrounds the confused individual as if such behavior occurs with no consequence. This is an essential attitudinal shift that must be mastered in order to transition into adulthood, and adults should not lay blessings to this extended state of infancy in teens just because it furthers a Leftist agenda.
The expression of "Jason's" and "Scream's" identity confusion is called hate…they ought to know better. They need to grow up. They are arrested…as they should be, by the way. Liz/Gabe's emotional assault on Mara is excused as confused experimentation. By the end, Mara is miraculously conciliatory to the situation. Liz/Gabe, therefore, can continue on her journey into prolonged infancy without the encumbrance of conscience to weigh her down.
Cronn-Mills delivers a personal note at the end of the book to the YA reader about her expertise in gender identity and then provides a macabre sing-song/Mr. Rogers explanation of the transgender umbrella and the myriad of gender confused individuals that fall into such a category along with detailed descriptions of medical procedures they will endure to transition to the gender they think they are. She explains that the sex of an individual is innate but that gender is forced upon us by our culture.
In an interesting juxtaposition, we find evidence laced throughout the book that while gender in not inborn, political orientation apparently is. We learn this through the author's choice of chapter titles…keep in mind that Elvis represents a god-figure in the mind of Liz/Gabe:
BARACK OBAMA IS THE NEW ELVIS BECAUSE HE'S LIVED IN A BIG WHITE HOUSE TOO
ADAM LAMBERT IS THE NEW ELVIS BUT WITH EYELINER
SATAN IS THE NEW ELVIS SINCE NEITHER ONE EVER DIES
KATY PERRY IS THE NEW ELVIS BECAUSE SHE LIKES KISSING GIRLS TOO
LADY GAGA IS THE NEW ELVIS BECAUSE SHE'S GOT A CRAZY WARDROBE TOO
RUSH LIMBAUGH CAN'T BE THE NEW ELVIS; HE'S TOO MEAN
Forgetting the god corollary for a moment because obviously Limbaugh is no god, the young reader is offered no evidence to support her thesis that Rush Limbaugh is too mean. His name appears only that once in the book, so I guess gender confused individuals are just born with such knowledge as part of their genetic makeup and need no further explanation. Good for you, Ms. Cronn-Mills. Way to teach.
If I never have to see or hear another pithy euphemism for female genitalia, male genitalia or prosthetic male genitalia for as long as I live, it will not be a moment too soon. If I never have to see or hear the word Mango again, I will die a happy woman. Twenty separate uses of the expression along with suitable Google search terms for locating such a device online and instructions for properly wearing one…the American Library Association declares Beautiful Music for Ugly Children to be one of the best works of Young Adult literature in the year 2013. I weep for the future of American children as I ponder the books that were considered not good enough to make the cut.
No appropriate Google search terms for "Rush Limbaugh" though. Go figure.
To read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is to harken back to the once shocking opening chapters of Aldous Huxley's famous critique of manufactured utopias as he sifted through clinical conditioning techniques used by academics to induce pronounced states of hyper-sexualization in children at the expense of human dignity and innocence. Brave New World:
From a neighboring shrubbery emerged a nurse, leading by the hand a small boy who howled as he went. An anxious looking girl trotted at her heels.
"What's the matter?" asked the Director?
The nurse shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing much," she answered. "It's just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play."
The correlation further strengthens between Brave New World and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children as Huxley used extended metaphor to confuse the concept of God "Our Lord" with "Our Ford." Liz/Gabe doesn't know if she believes in God other than to thank God for male prosthetic devices and to ponder becoming a priest if the seminary can overlook her tampons, but substitutes her need for the wisdom of a higher authority with the voice of Elvis who keeps telling her to keep moving forward and let the chips fall where they may.
The only problem with the Huxley/Cronn-Mills analogy is that Huxley merely prophesies the Cronn-Mills depravity cloaked in the faux-intellectualism of Gender Studies.
For the life of me, I do not notice a difference between the ALA's recommendation of this book for children between 12 to 18 and some trench coated wingnut exposing himself to children as they walk home from school. It's the same philosophy. The only distinction is that the ALA's trench coat was paid for using your tax money.
I do not recommend this book for children between the ages of 12 to 18. I do, however, highly recommend this book for all parents who seek affirmation that the American education system is failing our children and for all educators who have had it with State sponsored lunacy.
The American Library Association might also want to consider reading this book with a fresh set of eyes. Perhaps the ALA might overlook their favored clinical attempts to hyper-sexualize children and admit that this book is in no way appropriate for teens.
Two stars because this book is repetitive and whiny and infantile.