My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: Loved it!
What it’s about:
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.
My thoughts (spoiler-free):
“Monday morning was the worst possible time to have an existential crisis, I decided on a Monday morning, while having an existential crisis.”
Let me start by saying that this was one of my most difficult reviews to write lately. Not because I’m feeling conflicted about Noteworthy. Not because I needed to get my thoughts in order. No, this was difficult because my heart was all “fdhjzkzhfdkjhqks” and excited and gushing all over the place and really, what are words again?
So suffice it to say: I LOVED this book. I loved this so much that I finished this in a day, despite still being in the after-effects of a horrible reading slump. This adorable, inspirational and just overall fantastic book blew that slump away, just like that. It was funny, it was cute, it was relatable, it was real, it was romantic and it was just about everything I’ve been looking for in a YA contemporary.
Why do I love Noteworthy so much? Let me count the ways!
(I’ll try to keep the unintelligible gushing to a bare minimum, but I can’t make any promises)
The plot. I mean, I have a thing for the girl-pretends-to-be-a-boy plot. I just can’t say no that that trope. Combine that trope with music, more specifically a capella, and I’m literally jumping up and down and screaming in excitement. This story has been pitched as Pitch Perfect meets She’s The Man, which are two of my favorite feel-good movies. And I’d like to add the kdrama You’re Beautiful to that list, which also features a girl crossdressing as a boy and entering the music world. Noteworthy definitely has something from all of the above, but in my view it even still exceeds all of them, because on top of the great and entertaining plot, it still has so much MORE. Which I’ll get to in my following points.
A great and relatable main character. Jordan is a Chinese-American teenage girl who comes from a poor family, an all-consuming broken relationship and is struggling with a lot of things, such as moving on from her past, figuring out her sexuality and how she’s going to reach her dreams. She was such a great, well-written and well-rounded main character. I loved her personality and her dry wit made her one of my all-time favorite characters.
The humor. Noteworthy is so full of humor – from Jordan’s dry wit to the hilarious situations she gets herself into, to the conversations between the Sharpshooters which will have you snorting despite yourself.
The diversity and representation. Where do I begin? There is so much diversity in all sorts of ways, from different races to different sexualities, and a lot of important topics get raised. Jordan’s crossdressing gets her to guiltily but also respectfully consider the big differences between what she’s doing and what transgender people struggle with. But it also touches on topics such as the narrow confines of femininity, the American health care system and education/ scholarship system, biphobia, … All of these important topics get adressed throughout the book in a respectful and natural way.
The friendships. I just totally saved the best for last. Not to say that my other points are not amazing and worth gushing about, but there’s just something about epic friendships and group dynamics that gets my heart fluttering. I ADORED the friendships in this book. The Sharpshooters are such a real, amazing and fun group of friends. They have their issues and their fights, but despite their many differences they also have eachothers’ back and are there for eachother through it all and it was so awe-inspiring to watch. Not to mention the hilarious group chats!
Overall, I think I have reached my limit for the moment of speaking coherently about this lovely book. Read this if you need a boost. Read this if you need a laugh. Read this if you want real, relatable characters. Reads this if you love epic friendships. Read this if you love music. Read this if you even remotely enjoyed Pitch Perfect, She’s The Man or You’re Beautiful. But for whatever reason, I can only recommend you to read this.
“It was impossible to feel alone in a room full of favorite books. I had the sense that they knew me personally, that they’d read me cover to cover as I’d read them.”
“It was a weird day if figuring out you were bisexual made up the least of your mental turmoil.”
“I meant to ask Erik to say something to Victoria, to follow what had happened at the dance, but I couldn’t settle on the right words. An apology for fleeing, sure, but then what? ‘I only think of you as a friend’? ‘I think we should see other people’? ‘It’s not you, it’s the fact that I’m secretly a girl who sacrificed a foot and a half of perfectly good hair to the dark gods of a capella’?”
“The world had told me what becoming a man looked like: conquering one thing or another, one way or another. Becoming a woman, as far as they’d told us, looked like blood.”
“There was something deeply screwed up about that attitude. There is no world where “you’re wrong” is an acceptable answer to “this hurts.”
“With so many queer kids at Kensington, people sometimes got weirdly comfortable, like they had a free pass to say anything they wanted about sexuality. I guess it was tempting to stick a rainbow-colored “Ally” pin on your backpack and call it a day, as if that were the endpoint, not the starting line.”
“Femininity had always felt inaccessible to me—my best attempt at it had always been putting on makeup and pretending to be more patient and graceful than I actually was, mostly for my mom’s sake. Sometimes in middle school, feeling awkward had become my default. Because I wasn’t patient. I wasn’t graceful. I was prematurely tall, I wasn’t skinny, I wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t care about any of it as much as I was supposed to. Square peg, meet round hole.”