ARC/Book Review: Noteworthy – Riley Redgate

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Title: Noteworthy (2017)
Author: Riley Redgate
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped… 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.

Review

Early last year, Riley Redgate impressed me with Seven Ways We Lie, a book with not two, not three, but seven first-person point of views. Entertaining, quirky and surprisingly original, SWWL was very much a solid debut, which is why I have quite high expectations of Redgate’s follow-up. Enter Noteworthy.

This book is the story of Jordan Sun, a Chinese-American teenage girl who disguises herself as a boy to join the Sharpshooters, her school’s a cappella group. While juggling her new persona, Jordan also has to deal with her family’s financial issues as well as her feelings of isolation and her not being able to fit in.  As with books where a protagonist goes undercover, though, the disguise only works for a period of time and once people find out, the consequences are dire.

“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.”

In that vein, Noteworthy might not be remarkably original (it’s even somewhat predictable), but Redgate managed to put a new spin on an old tale and keep me entertained. For me, this spin was in the characters — the Sharpshooters were a diverse, clashing group of races, cultures, personalities, beliefs and values, and each and every one of their interactions captured me. They’re also remarkably passionate about music and singing, which… honestly? Kind of makes them nerds. Lovable nerds.

Jordan herself was an entertaining protagonist, and I enjoyed being in her head and experiencing the world through her eyes. The nature of her action — lying to a whole group of people by disguising her gender— is inherently flawed, but she does struggle with guilt quite a bit and doesn’t justify herself when she makes mistakes. I also appreciate how her disguise makes her question tougher issues such as trans visibility, queerness, and sexuality. I hadn’t been expecting that, and I think she was developed very, very well.

“It’s the greatest strength to know your weaknesses. It just means you have a question to answer: How hard will you work to get what you want? And that’s the heart of it: from your career, from your time here, from everything, really — what do you want?”

The characters in this book deal with a lot of issues, from things like race, culture, sexuality and religion, to the more concrete, direct things like financial issues and parental issues. What I appreciate is how naturally these themes are explored, how casual and true and real they are in the moment. I never really felt like I was being forced into thinking a certain way or that I was being preached at.

Redgate’s writing was fast-paced and light, with just the right amount of description, dialogue, and narrative. It was also occasionally humorous and did not hesitate to poke fun at itself. The only reason why I’m not giving it five full stars is because there were some little things that I think didn’t sit as naturally as I would have liked, but overall, it was still a delight to read. Some books fight with you and rebel against you even as you try your best to fall into the story, but not Noteworthy.

* I received a copy of NOTEWORTHY from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes might differ in the final publication.

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27 thoughts on “ARC/Book Review: Noteworthy – Riley Redgate

  1. Lovely review, Reg! I really enjoyed this book just as well, what a GREAT cast of lovable nerds, as you perfectly put it ahah 🙂 Though I’m curious, what made you give this book only 4 stars? 🙂

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  2. Really great review. I’ve seen this cover around a fair bit but I never read the synopsis for it, now that I have it sounds so interesting I really want to give it a read. I’ll be adding this to my TBR for sure!!

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  3. Great review for this book Reg, I’ve seen this book around a little on WordPress and GR but didn’t realise until your review it was by the same author who wrote SWWL (a book which is still on my to-read list incidentally). Anyway this sounds like another amazing book from Riley and it’s definitely one I’m going to be adding to my to-read list as well. I love how you said the themes were all explored naturally rather than being forced on the reader you know? Jordan sounds like a great character as well so hopefully I’ll be able to get around to this book soon once it’s released! 🙂

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    • Thank you, Beth! Yeah, it’s by the same author and I personally would be looking forward to more of Redgate’s works. She’s just got that diverse YA character feel right, and in fact, I think this one felt more authentic as far as diversity goes (though admittedly it could also be because the MC is Chinese-American and I relate to that a little bit personally speaking). I hope you like this. ❤

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  4. I adored Noteworthy so much! ❤ I read it back in January, and it's still my favorite read of this year so far. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, too! I totally agree that Jordan was really well-developed, and that The Sharpshooters are the most dang adorable group of nerds I've ever read about. Great review, Reg! 🙂

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    • I’m glad to hear that! I really enjoyed it myself – it’s definitely one of the more memorable releases I’ve read this year. I LOVE Sharpshooters, and reading this makes me all shades of excited for Pitch Perfect 3, HAHA. #offtopic 😂

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  5. I read Noteworthy recently and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I didn’t connect to the characters and couldn’t really get into the story, even after the slow beginning. However, I loved how thoughtful and sensitive it was and written with great care! Thanks for this awesome review Reg!

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  6. I keep hearing such great things about this and it actually makes me a little sad that I passed on it while browsing NetGalley. Although, at the same time might be a good thing since I’ve been in such a contemporary slump lately. BUT I’m so glad you ended up enjoying this one! I love the fact that it has that music aspect, sort of makes me think of Glee. And that’s great that it explored the themes really naturally. I’m definitely going to have to give this one a read. Great review as always, Reg!! 😊♥

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    • Aww, that’s too bad – but that’s OK, there are plenty of ways to read the book some other time. And I feel you re: the slump, I’m kind of in the middle of a big-ish one and it’s stressing me out a little. Let’s hope we get out of this OK. 🙏

      I didn’t make the connection with Glee, but I DEFINITELY made the connection with Pitch Perfect, which I just loved. I hope you give this book a chance eventually. 💗

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      • Slumps are always the worst. It’s like you want to read all of the books but you can’t. 😖 Here’s to hoping! Sooner or later the slumps gotta end. I’m really hoping I don’t hit a fantasy one any time soon myself.
        It also made me think of Pitch Perfect too! Anything with singing and school automatically makes me think of both. I definitely plan on giving it a read eventually. 😊♥

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  7. I’m a huge theatre fan, so this book seems right up my alley! I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it so much. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  8. I loved this book, Jordan is one of my fave mc’s because of how reflective she is on her lying as well as how she could recognise that the things she was doing are people real life, like when she stumbled upon the trans website.
    I absolutely adored the story, the singing, the whole group of friends, and the ending of course 🙂 I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on this book and just yell about it because it deserves all the hype 🙂

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    • Yes, for sure! I wasn’t expecting that angle at all and thought Redgate wouldn’t even bother mentioning those things, so I was completely floored (in the best possible way). I’ll be yelling about it right there with you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

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