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Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  6,772 ratings  ·  751 reviews
"This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I'm Gabe. Welcome to my show."

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I'm a guy. Gabe. My parents think I've gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I'm right. I've been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I'm like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song ever
Paperback, 262 pages
Published October 8th 2012 by Flux (first published October 1st 2012)
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Isaiah I can understand your hesitation to read a book by a cis author about trans people. I have that fear every time I pick up a book. I've heard good thin…moreI can understand your hesitation to read a book by a cis author about trans people. I have that fear every time I pick up a book. I've heard good things from other transguys about this book, so I am willing to give it a shot. (less)
Felix You can either buy it (Digital copies from Google Books, Audible, etc., physical copies from Amazon, bookstores, etc.) or check it out at the library.…moreYou can either buy it (Digital copies from Google Books, Audible, etc., physical copies from Amazon, bookstores, etc.) or check it out at the library. You can buy a copy on Goodreads, but you can't read it on Goodreads.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,772 ratings  ·  751 reviews

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Wart Hill
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, contemporary, ya
Hello, fellow Ugly Children.

I have one request to make of you before you read this review: find Hanson's Scream and Be Free and put it on repeat. Because that is my theme song for this book. Because this book means a lot. And Hanson has been an important factor in my life since middle school. And as this book uses music as a strong, important theme, it seemed appropriate to bring that up.

sing it if you know it
scream it if you feel it
there's nothing standing in your way
follow along with me
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it

This is a beautiful book. Really.

Gabe was born Elizabeth, and until a couple of months ago, lived as Elizabeth, fighting back everything that he felt was true about himself. But he finally decides it's time to own being Gabe, and it's through the help of working as a DJ for the community radio station that he's finally better able to accept himself -- and work toward having other people accept him, too.

It's the Midwest and while it's not small-town Midwest (it's a good size town of 40,000), t
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
i was excited to pick up a teen novel starring a trans protagonist and, in particular, being a music-obsessed former radio dj, a novel whose conceit was a community radio show that allowed this young man to freely express and experience his Gabe-ness in the relative anonymity of the airwaves while he eased into fully embodying his true self in the more vulnerable worlds of family, friendship, and public life as a teen preparing to graduate from high school--where he was expected to perform and r ...more
Xan West
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF at 12%

I found this book to be harmful to me as a trans reader, so much that I DNF'd, particularly as I understand from other reviews by trans readers that it gets worse, not better.

This book presents trans life as inexorable misery with no hope or allies, full of bullying, misgendering, and gender policing, where even your best friend who supposedly supports you and has your back as a trans guy, will still coerce you to paint your toenails pink and come out as trans when you don't want to.
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Okay. I'm in the I'm-trans-and-wanted-this-to-be-good-but-was-mostly-disappointed camp.

My main critiques (some light/vague spoilers ahead):
- It read to me as if author had a hard time with dialogue/scenes where Gabe's identity is the central topic (fight w/ dad, Mara, that moment w/ Paige). They often either felt flat, as if the language/issues being presented were being copied out of some informational guide about Trans Issues, or the characters' reactions felt very sudden/out of character/unre
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ya-children
Ok so now I've read this book and I can honestly say I need more stars for it, 5 does not begin to cover what this book deserves. let me start by saying that Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a young adult book and while I do on occasion read them they are not normally my thing, however, this book caught my eye and I am so glad I gave in to the impulse to get it.

Kristin Cronn-Mills has dealt so beautifully with what is a very delicate and personal issue for many including myself. The referenc
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

This is going to be a difficult review to write and another one brought to you by my two hands.

Gabe Williams has big summer plans. He has his own (quite successful) late-night radio show at an obscure radio station where he geeks out on old songs with the help of his neighbour and mentor John (presumably the first DJ to play Elvis Presley back in the days). He is in love with his best friend Paige and hopes against hope she might feel the same way – al
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It's obvious the the author (who is cisgender) did her homework. The characters are people you can actually care about. And I got pretty vivid pictures of them all in my head, even though she didn't (to my memory) describe Gabe in too much detail. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, but I'm definitely going to pass it on to friends who have teenagers. I think this is a truly important book. ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I got this book from the library a few hours ago and I literally couldn't put it down until I finished it. The story was engrossing to the extreme, and given that it's a short book, it didn't take long to read. I'm a transguy just like Gabe, but this is the first novel of this type I've picked up and read. It was amazing reading Gabe's thoughts and feelings and how well they reflected my own. Reading this book made me feel understood and like I wasn't alone. For me this book is a remarkable achi ...more
May 11, 2012 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars

“I also know that people think I’m an ISSUE, and that gets really old. Any time THOSE SCARY TRANNIES come up, everybody flips out.”

Well, I for one was very interested in reading a book from the point of view of a transitioning person. What must it be like to feel that you were born in the wrong body? What must it be like to be forced to constantly pretend you belong in one category when nothing about it feels right? Is anyone really one hundred percent “male” or “female” anyway? My pe
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, lgbtq, apl, ya, trans
For the most part this was okay. I've been meaning to read this for a while now & glad that I finally made time for it. It's refreshing to see a cis author take the time to research binders, packing, all that good stuff. Kudos to her on that. Naturally, this isn't perfect rep but it's a lot better than most of the other YA I've read. I appreciate the info guide at the back- how she understands that a lot of the terminology may be outdated in five years. (Spoiler: it is.) Yet, this is an author w ...more
Madison ♡
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: proreview
Let's start off by saying that, the only reason I read this book, is because my sister got it from B&N, and my mom made me read it to make sure it was 'appropriate'. I mean, it sounded interesting, but I never would have picked it up for myself.
I am glad to say that I actually really liked this book. More than I thought I would, anyway.
It is the first book I've read with a transgender character, so this genre is new to me. Luckily, Cronn-Mills knew what she was doing and I found the book enjoy
Kerri (Book Hoarder)
I wish there were more books like this, or at least more books that I was aware of.

Beautiful Music For Ugly Children is the story of Gabe. Gabe was born as Elizabeth but he's been sure for a long time that he's not a girl, he's a boy. The book tells the story of his first steps into transitioning publicly, and the difficulties he faces.

Being bisexual, I could identify with some of what Gabe went through, though only a fraction of it. People find it hard enough to deal with the fact that some p
Greyson | Use Your Words
Trigger Warnings: Violence, transphobia (like a lot of if, it’s challenged but still it could be very triggering)
Representation: Trans male,
Actual Rating: 3.5

When you think about it, I'm like a 45. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side—not played as often but just as good. When 45s were around, most DJs didn't care about B sides, but somewhere big hits: The Smiths' "How Soon is Now" and U2's "The Sweetest Thing," for example. We don't really have B sides anym
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot. BMfUC started with bunch of clichés about high schooler life and I wasn't convinced, but it all found the right place and story turned out vivid, emotional and realistic.
First and foremost, the book is about Gabe and his love to music. Gabe is transgender and we follow the story of how he's opening his Side B to the world. The side that matters most. Also his relations with family, friends, girls come into focus, as well as bullying and hate crimes, unfortunately common
A.R. McKenna
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is an amazing, beautiful novel. The more I think about it, the more I love it.

The book is about Gabe and not just about his coming out as transgender. It's about his passionate love for music, his relationships, and his anxieties and fears. There are scenes in the book that make you laugh out loud and others that make your eyes all teary. I love Gabe as a character and really like the different artists and songs that are brought up in the story. I'm a huge musi
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely love this book ❤️
I love the plot, the characters, the writing. I love that it feels so real, so authentic. I love that there's almost no kitsch but pure unadulterated emotions. I love the ~soundtrack. What I don't love is the transphobia and the ensuing violence, unfortunately this is how some people tick, and there is no sugarcoating this fact.
I love the author's note at the end. Usually I never read author's notes but this time I did and, yeah, amazing informative stuff :)
This boo
I liked it enough to ignore the music snobbery (nothing gets up my nose faster, y'all) but would it really have been that terrible if Gabe had ended up with a girlfriend? I don't know if the ending was supposed to hint that he and Paige did get together, but if so, it wasn't clear enough for me. ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: queer-lit, buddy-read
Such a middle-of-the-road book for me. I'll have to reflect on the story more before outlining the issues I had with this book, but for now let's just say it's painfully obvious that Gabe is a trans character written by a non-trans author. Like really obvious. ...more
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
I have... Very mixed feelings about this one. It was Very :/
Gabe has always identified as a boy, but he was born with a girl's body. With his new public access radio show growing in popularity, Gabe struggles with romance, friendship, and his parents, all while trying to come out as transgendered. An audition for a radio station in Minneapolis looks like a ticket to a better life in the big city, but his entire future is threatened when some people find out that Gabe the DJ is also Elizabeth from school.

At times humourous, honest, and complicated in the
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, lgbtqia
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children drew me in with a fantastic title and gorgeous cover, plus I’m a big sucker for LBGT+ books. I wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like it, but in the end the writing was just too poor to pass go. The writing was childish, the emotions were thin and flimsy at best, and all of the characters were incredibly stereotypical. This book was the first of its kind and received a lot of praise for bravery and honesty and I can appreciate that, but I think that t ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
Though our society has come a long way, there still aren't that many YA books out there that tackle transgender issues or have transgender narrators. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children tells the story of Gabe (born Elizabeth) who is struggling to bring his "B side" out for good. His family still refers to him as "Liz", and although his two best friends have accepted his announcement, he still has to deal with his town--some of whom aren't as happy about his new persona.

I love the supporting chara
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: young-adult, lgbtq
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Victoria A
I like the concept. I like that it talked about music. And I love that it tackled one of the most sensitive issues that we have in our society at the moment - gender. Or more specifically, someone's gender, gender-preference and gender-orientation. I'm sure no homophobe or close-minded individual would be interested in reading this book, but it's nice to know that a book like this exists. It helps people better understand the story of someone who feels like they were trapped in the wrong body.

Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic read.

Gabe is a transgender high schooler who is struggling with making decisions about the next phase in his life. He has a mentor who is encouraging his love of music and being a radio personality, and he has friends who understand his struggle, living in a world who still sees him as Liz, yet life is still mostly confusing and scary.

Although I appreciated a lot of the amazing musical allusions in this fantastic story, I think many will be over my students' heads as they
Elise Edie
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kristin Cronn-Mills keeps the focus on empowerment and friendship in this easy-going novel about a likable teenage disc jockey who happens to be transitioning from female to male. I was particularly appreciative of the treatment of Gabe's confused but loving parents, who are doing a not-so-great job adjusting to their child's transition. Gabe has to contend with rejection and violence around his transition, but he also gets a generous dose of acceptance and understanding. If only every trans tee ...more
elizabeth roberts-zibbel
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtqia, the-girls
My 12 year old daughter came out as gay last year, and she asked for a gorgeous array of YA LGBTQ books for Christmas, which I’m reading along with her. The author’s note does state she wouldn’t write the book again based on the more current “nothing about us without us” theory of marginalized voices in entertainment. I did enjoy this book; some aspects seemed very true to life and some seemed a little unrealistic. I loved the musical emphasis.

Harry Potter reference: YES
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Gabe is so much like my ex it is scary, so it was like a walk down memory lane when he was transitioning. Good, but I wish things had wrapped up more with Gabe's love life. ...more
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The R.E.A.D. Book...: June 2016 2 8 Jun 26, 2016 02:53PM  
YA LGBT Books: * December 2014 BotM - Beautiful Music for Ugly Children *spoilers* 4 221 May 01, 2016 02:31PM  
2017 Reading Chal...: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children 1 11 Sep 30, 2015 09:34AM  

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