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“The Music of What Happens” is a tiny epic, exquisitely crafted, covering only a month in the life of Max Morrison and Jordan Edwards, two very different LGBT boys, one hot Arizona summer.
The classic YA trope is that Max is a jock, big and muscular, while Jordan is slender and graceful. The reversal of this trope is that both boys are out to their best friends – two other baseball players for Max, two snarky girls for Jordan. Coming out is not the issue here; coping with life is. These boys and their friends are a racially diverse crew, which allows the author to explore those realities in clever and meaningful ways through the kids’ often hilarious banter. These two triads of teenagers are miniature Greek choruses, giving Jordan and Max both sounding boards and sources for their personal pain.
The central plot arc is a grimy food truck that Jordan’s widowed mother Lydia is trying to resurrect in order to stave off losing their house. Max decides to sign on as a helper when he happens across the food truck while avoiding his mother, Rosa, who is on the warpath because of his staying out overnight the night before. Max sees working on a food truck as an escape from the tedious clerical job his mother has assigned him as punishment for his behavior; but he also is fascinated by Jordan, and hopes to get to know this creative, quiet kid better.
Parents are critical in this story, something I especially appreciate in YA fiction. That doesn’t mean that the parents are saintly or wise. Parental failure is key here, as well as parental love. Love is not a solution in this world. It is necessary, for sure, but it guarantees nothing.
Very early in the book Max narrates: “I came away realizing I had powers I didn’t know I had: I was a freakin’ warrior.” For all that this seems like an affirmation, the author and the narrative gradually bring us to the realization that this is a fallacy, a smokescreen designed to deny feelings that themselves would reveal something profoundly damaging. Both Max and Jordan are in denial, and neither one of them understands it. Being strong is what boys – even LGBT boys – are taught, and that gets in the way of self-understanding.
Jordan and Max are attracted to each other, but also see each other as alien creatures that they don’t understand and don’t know how to deal with. For much of the story, the boys circle each other, trying to figure out what they’re dealing with. This is handled charmingly and with great humor, as each boy brings his puzzlement back to his best friends for discussion and judgment. By the time any sort of overt physical interaction happens, they’ve already gone past their basic attraction to each other. I don’t mean it’s over, but that their friendship has evolved to the point where they are able to truly see each other. This, in the end, makes all the difference, and transforms Konigsberg’s book from a teen romance to a coming of age story that seems quietly Wagnerian in its emotional power.
No spoilers, but the first 80 percent of the book is the build up to a crescendo that brings both Jordan and Max’s back stories to a head. This is where the book’s title comes into play, weaving a line from a poem into a complex and poignant finale.
First I want to start off… the best part of this book was how it was a gay book without the usual tropes/conflict you see.
It’s nice to see a book where characters feel real and conflict doesn’t feel forced for stories sake.
The fact that they touch on the topics they do and how they handle them was wonderful. It didn’t feel like an after school special nor was it just glossed over.
Another thing I liked was how Max mentioned his Amigos will say stuff and crack jokes that bother him but he shrugs them off. I can really relate, my straight friends and coworkers always crack jokes about how me and my BF must always be getting it on, as if us being gay makes us sex fiends. Then there is the Gaybff stereotype being addressed…
It’s nice to see these topics presented and shown as well as the author did. Sure they are small and seem harmless but the author did a great job of portraying that they do hurt. Same with friendly razzing like with the scene where the other amigos open up we find out even joking about someone being dumb… even if they act like it doesn’t bother them… sometimes it gets to them.
All in all this is a great read that covered some great topics. I would love for part 2 that shows what happens next but at the same time the story ended well and felt complete so I can be content if there is no more to be told.
It’s a beautiful book where we see the perspective of not 1, but 2 characters. I wanted to start off the year by reading a book that included LGBTQ+, and this did not disappoint. The themes in this book really spoke to me and I feel like it’s definitely a must read for everyone.
The subgenre of Young Adult M/M romantic fiction has had its cup runnethed (??) over in the last few months. "Running with Lions", "Sometime after Midnight", "This is Kind of an Epic Love Story", and more.
Right at the top of the heap are Greg Howard's very funny and spiky "Social Intercourse", Julia Lynn Rubin's bleak and gritty "Burro Hills", and Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera's hopelessly romantic "What if it's us" - and now we can add Bill Konigsberg's "The Music of What Happens" to the A-list.
This novel is very special. Its two leads are exceptionally believable and relatable, as are their personal situations and the people around them. The device of the food truck as the backdrop for their developing romance felt clever and original to me. And it was wonderful to see the power of two damaged boys' love for each other help them begin to heal.
Whilst I love this genre, the writing can sometimes feel a little clunky and amateurish, with grammatical errors that really should not be made by published authors. This is certainly not the case with Konigsberg, whose prose is flowing and natural.
This book felt very real to me, and I think it would translate well to the cinema, the kind of quiet, character-driven drama that made (just as examples) "20th Century Women" and "Love is Strange" so special.
I highly recommend this lovely story to all fans of M/M romance.
As a side-note, there was not, as far as I could tell, a single typo throughout the book. That's got to be a first in this genre, and the editors deserve recognition for this amazing-even-though-it-shouldn't-be feat.
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg is a contemporary YA love story between two boys going through a rough time in their lives. Jordan and his mom attempt to start running their food truck when Max happens to check the truck out. What he sees has him volunteering to help work on the truck for the summer and make it a successful business. Now that's just a small part of the story but I hate spoilers. This book was so wonderful, that you should read it and find out for yourself what else happened. It was beautifully written. Konigsberg is one of my favorite authors for his ability to write these amazing characters that I get so caught up in. I find myself thinking about them long after the book is closed and wondering what else is happening in their lives. I absolutely loved that Jordan and Max were there for one another during what was probably the worst days of each of their lives. If they had to go through things without one another, they may not have been able to. I appreciate that Max immediately saw Jordan and not any of his flaws. This was a boy who thought very little of himself and Max helped him grow and change. The parental roles were so significant in both of their lives and making them who they were. Jordan's more so than Max but Max deserved better than what he got from his father. He hid his pain thanks to his fathers influence.
As I read through this, it sounds more like a book report than a review. But to the point, I loved it and highly recommend this as well as his other books.
Konigsberg’s latest book, The Music if What Happens, is his best yet. The Music of What Happens is a beautifully written story of two high school boys, Max and Jordan, as they work together on amateur food truck trying to raise money to save Jordan’s house from foreclosure. Along the way, these two opposites attract, and learn how to deal with the secrets that each one carries. In regard to the writing, Konigsberg’s characters jump off the page with their authenticity and the setting of Chandler AZ is vibrant and real. I have never felt as close to a book as I have with this one. Beyond the story and writing, The Music of What Happens is a pivotal book in young adult literature. LGBTQ+ young adult literature has a rich history of coming out stories about protagonists affirming their identity and encouraging countless readers to do the same. But there has been fewer books that look the lives of LGBTQ+ youth beyond their coming out. The Music of What Happens explores issues including: heteronormativity, toxic masculinity, and sexual assault in the LGBTQ+ community. I couldn’t recommend The Music of What Happens highly enough.
What a joyful story, handling a difficult topic, and treating it in such a tender and healthy way. Konigsberg has a gift for capturing the hilarious language of teen friends. His dialogue is witty and humorous and made me laugh out loud several times through this book. The depth and sensitivity in the way he deals with a too common problem among teens and college kids is, however, the most amazing part of this book. My "headline" for this review tells the whole story. I laughed, cried and in the end, felt like I had just read the most wonderful, uplifting coming-of-age story in a long, long time. Thank you for tackling a tough topic with sensitivity, wit, grace and tenderness. You packed a lot of teenage angst and anxiety into this book. I can't wait to read the rest of your work!
Two teenage boys, from very different backgrounds, and with very different levels of confidence and self-esteem, find themselves working their vacation on a mobile fast food vehicle in the fierce heat of an Arizona summer. This a tender and heartwarming story of how two apparently incompatible people can grow together, and of the hidden pain in the most confident-seeming of lives. It shows two young people confronting serious personal and family challenges and, as such, is designed for a teenage audience. But it has lessons for all ages and its story of love is timeless.