Great Illustrated Books

The Music of What Happens

Bill Konigsberg

Arthur A. Levine Books (February 26, 2019)
Pages : 352
Suggested Ages: 10 & Up
ISBN: 978-1338215502

THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS is the adorable story of two teenage boys in Arizona who fall in love despite their differences. It is told in two points of view that alternate by chapter. Max is your typical “bro” type who is really into sports and video games and Jordan is the really shy type who enjoys poetry. They each have their own unique voice that makes each chapter feel fresh and exciting. 

The two come together one summer when Max gets a job on Jordan’s father’s old food truck. Jordan and his mother are struggling financially and the food truck’s success is the only thing that can save them from being kicked out of their home. A lot of the greatness of this book comes from Max’s and Jordan’s interactions on the food truck. They spend a lot of time together creating new recipes, cooking together, and greeting customers, all in 100-plus degree weather. 

As the summer progresses, the two get closer and closer. They meet each other’s parents and friends and learn that they have a lot more in common than they first thought. Despite this though, each of them seems to realize that there is something mysterious about the other. 

Both Max and Jordan have personal conflicts that they are hiding from each other. Max had a negative encounter with an older kid a few months before the book began, and Jordan has to deal with his unstable, gambling-addicted mother. On top of the normal struggles of being a teenager, dealing with these issues makes life difficult for each character. 

Both characters’ personal development is outstanding to see as one reads THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS. It’s a coming-of-age novel at its core, and it handles race, sexuality, and mental illness in a very delicate way. It is really hard not to fall in love with Max’s thoughtfulness and Jordan’s sweetness. The sandy, cactus-filled setting is also fantastic, and the author does a good job of constantly integrating it into the narrative. This book really wouldn’t work anywhere except for Arizona. Book are always better when the setting works perfectly with the plot and the two enrich each other. 

It’s also worth mentioning how beautiful the cover is. Of course one should never judge a book by its cover, but a great book with a gorgeous cover is the best kind of book! If you want to read a cute romantic love story with a rich setting and lovable characters, you cannot miss THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS.  

Reviewed by : JN

Themes : Romance, Coming-Of-Age, Family, LGBTQ

If you love this book, then try:

Panetta, Kevin. BLOOM. First Second (2019).
Philips, L. PERFECT TEN. Speak (2018).
Lauren, Christina. AUTOBOYOGRAPHY. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2018).

Critics have said

"The result is a story with imperfect characters who are, refreshingly, called out on problematic behaviors and aim to do better. A fresh addition to the menu of queer teenage love stories." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Give to fans of Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. A first purchase for public and high school libraries." -- School Library Journal, starred review

"Konigsberg demonstrates once again why he is one of the major voices in LGBTQ literature." -- Booklist, starred review