Kirstin Cronn-Mills, October 2012. Gabe has always known he’s a boy, but his body (female) and his legal name (Elizabeth) say otherwise. He’s finally come out to his parents and his best friend Paige, but people at school call him a lesbian and they don’t mean it as a compliment. Even worse, he has a crush on Paige that he knows is unrequited. Luckily, music is a solace for Gabe. His awesome senior-citizen neighbor John is a music geek extraordinaire and has landed Gabe a DJ slot at the local radio station; Gabe calls his show Beautiful Music for Ugly Children and soon develops a following of superfans who pull pranks he suggests on the air. However, once word leaks out he’s a boy, some violent bullies start tormenting him and Paige…but when they target John, he’s hospitalized and it doesn’t look good. Plus his parents are pressuring him about college but he doesn’t want to go. And now Paige is mad at him and he doesn’t even know why. Gabe has to resolve all these issues at once, as befits a problem novel.
Yes, it’s a predictable arc, but the journey is fascinating. This protagonist is not just a paper doll delivering a message about trans acceptance; he’s a real person with real problems and, incidentally, great taste in music. The radio aspect of the book adds a view into a world most teens haven’t experienced. Gabe’s friendship with an older man who happens to be cooler than most of the book’s teens is refreshing. Recommended.