Gabe may have been born and grown up as Liz, but deep down he has always known that he is definitely not a girl. As high school graduation approaches, he begins to make plans for transitioning from Liz to Gabe. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get others to see what’s on the inside when the outside doesn’t match. As Gabe puts himself out there through his radio show and starts to imagine a future without the shadow of Liz hanging over his head, complications and heartbreak set the stage for questioning and a hefty dose of reality. Set amid a cast of both loveable and irritating characters, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children captures a lot of what it must be like to struggle to come out as transgendered–not just for that person but for his or her loved ones. Ms. Cronin-Mills has crafted a cast of supporting characters, from parents who are really trying and a mostly accepting best friend to the cooler-than-cool next-door-neighbor who’s there for Gabe through it all, who all have important roles to play as Gabe learns that he must accept and love himself before he can convince the world to do likewise.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children tackles a difficult subject and does so masterfully. Ms. Cronn-Mills takes on transitioning from female to male and the many difficulties associated with that change, especially after 18 years of living or being forced to live as a female, and puts it into the perspective of Liz/Gabe–who is out to his parents, best friend, and (eventually) neighbor and anxiously awaiting the end of high school so that he can transition to the person he is meant to be. The path is not at all easy and the book tackles a lot of difficult facets–from being bullied to gaining the acceptance of friends and family. It’s clearly not an easy road for anyone involved and Ms. Cronn-Mills didn’t shy away from those aspects. Acceptance wasn’t sugar-coated or made to seem easy, and readers will appreciate that honestly.