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 by Riley Redgate
Published: May 2nd 2017 by Amulet Books
Source: ARC via Netgalley
It’s hard to capture music on the page but Jordan’s passion for music can be felt throughout the story. I want to see a screen adaptation of Noteworthy, so I can hear the Sharpshooter’s solos and harmonies live. Also, to dive into rivalries between the a capella groups.
Disguised, Jordan finds herself forming unexpected friendships and a confidence in finding other ways to express herself. Although she also find herself slowly becoming more stressed. As the story unfolds, each teen in this musical crew has their own layers to explore. I also appreciated that Jordan as a bi, Chinese-American teen is not the only teen with an intersectional experience in this story. Nihal’s dry humour is one of the most memorable parts of this book. Nihal’s conversations about Sikhism and his coming out to a friend are nuanced scenes.
Jordan’s friend Isaac, a Japanese-American teen and fellow Sharpshooter brings in another perspective to the group. Although Isaac’s romantic relationship only develops after a certain identity revelation, which a few important reviews have critically delved into in relation to hetero-normative romance arcs.
On another thread on identity, Jordan’s experience leads her to reflect upon the power of gender norms but she only briefly addresses the impact of her disguise in relation to trans and/or non-binary students. It’s also important to note that Jordan herself is cis. These concerns around the centering of cis narratives are explored in this review by a non-binary reader.
I recommend Noteworthy to teens looking for books with intersectionality, a great bi heroine and a passion for music. Though with a few notes on trans and/or non-binary identity as highlighted from the reviews linked below. Jordan’s experience as a student who comes from a low-socio economic background with concerned parents is realistic and also needed for contemporary YA.