The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
Genre: YA Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, LGBTQIA+
Publication: January 29th 2019 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 320 pages
Format: ARC from the publisher
Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.
Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.
Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.
Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.
Trigger warnings: This book mentions a lot of sensitive stuff like rape, sexual abuse, gambling addiction, PTSD, homelessness, racism, microagressions, and absent parent dynamics. If these topics are known triggers for you, I highly suggest that you tread carefully should you choose to read this book and/or this review.
Huge thanks to my friends from Scholastic US for sending me a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
I dove right into reading The Music of What Happens hoping to re-live my reading experience for one of my all-time favorite books, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and that’s actually quite what I got even though it’s a bit modified? I was surprised to find out that the only similarities that these books have is that they both take place somewhere in the Southwestern region of the US, and they’re both about a summer romance featuring two queer boys and a bunch of strong minor characters present to support the entire story. I’m very much delighted to report that it’s a completely different novel and it certainly has a lot of strong points to be proud of. Read on to know what I thought of this poignant novel.
Max and Jordan are THE main reason as to why I immensely enjoyed reading this book. Both boys come from different walks of life but, much like a lot of people, they’re actually quite identical, especially in terms of their family backgrounds. Max is a product of a broken family—his mom and dad are divorced—and Jordan lost his dad a little early on in his life and at the start of the story, both characters were solely taken care care of by their mothers. Both Max and Jordan have had bad experiences in the past (For the purpose of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t go into detail as to what actually happened.) and I’d like to think that this paved the way for them to become their best selves as the story progressed. The stuff that they went through made them a lot stronger, braver, and more open-minded and I found myself easily rooting for the both of them—individually and as a pair—and I firmly believe that I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if it not for these two boys and their lovable story.
I also deeply appreciated the fact that the romance aspect of this novel wasn’t at all insta-lovey! I mean, if you throw two people—whether they be queer or not—in a food truck with little to no moving space, add in a summer heatwave and a high-stakes goal, I’d say that that’s an insta-love story waiting to happen. But for Max and Jordan, that just wasn’t the case. Their meet cute wasn’t at all cute—dudebro, it was SO awkward, let me tell ‘ya!—and I’d even wager that they didn’t really like each other that much on their first day. I was even waiting for it to be an enemies to lovers type of story (and yes, I was expecting for this to be a huge ass love story, ngl!) But anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I really admired the fact that the author chose for these people NOT to fall in love the first chance they got and that by the time they did have romantic feelings for each other, they were already a little less broken if you know what I mean? I’m a firm believer in the notion that before you fall in love with other people, you first have to fall in love with yourself, and I felt like this was the case for Max and Jordan.
On a more emotional note, Jordan’s constant battle with her Mom’s selfishness almost always gutted me. Like I’ve said, Jordan lost his father way, way back in the story and I personally think that her mother never had the chance to move on from that. She always went on this self-destruct mode whenever she was put in a position that needed her to be a mother figure and that just annoyed me and broke my heart every single time I had to witness it. She freaked out almost instantly about every single thing, she couldn’t maintain a day job, and she always made it a point to make every single thing about her whenever Jordan’s personal problems were brought up. And the same could be said for Max’s father who, for the few pages that he WAS present, seemed like your typical white father who cared only for superficial stuff. It was hard to read through because Jordan’s mother was mentally absent, and Max’s father for almost the whole entirety of the book and it somehow reflected my personal battles with regards to my own father. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s so, so relatable for me, and even though it’s something that became an integral part of Jordan’s story, I wouldn’t wish for this to happen to any person—to have someone to look up to whenever you have problems, whether it be small or big, and to have them be completely absent. It hurts, and it no doubt tugged on my heartstrings.
“The Music of What Happens is one deceiving book. Readers will take one look at that cover and instantly expect a cute, light, and romantic love story about two queer boys, and YES, it is, basically. But it’s not light. It’s a deep exploration of one’s disconnection among friends and family, and overcoming the obstacles that come with living honestly. It’s a contemporary fit for those who enjoy stories that make you think, make you question your choices, and make you want to live your best self. If you’re looking to check out a title that will shatter your heart but also put it back again, be sure to grab a copy of Bill Konigsberg’s latest.”
Have YOU read any book by Bill Konigsberg yet? If so, then what book by him would you say is your favorite? Let me know what you thought down below in the comments section! And if you haven’t checked THE MUSICE OF WHAT HAPPENS yet, be sure to grab yourself a copy as soon as possible and come back here to discuss!
Bill Konigsberg was born in 1970 in New York City. Expectations were high from birth – at least in terms of athletics. His parents figured he’d be a great soccer player, based on his spirited kicking from inside the womb. As it turned out, the highlight of his soccer career was at Camp Greylock in 1978, when he was chosen for the Camp’s “D” team. There were only four levels. Bill played alongside the likes of the kid who always showered alone, the chronic nosebleeder and the guy with recurrent poison ivy.
Bill currently lives in Chandler, Arizona, which is the thinking man’s Gilbert, Arizona. He has a husband who is clearly too good for him, and two cute dogs, Mabel and Buford, who complete him.
The Music of What Happens arrives in January of 2019, and it’s a romance between two boys, and it includes a food truck that makes cloud eggs. Bill has an egg phobia.
Until the next one!