Old Music for New People by David Biddle is a YA contemporary coming-of-age story that will be published December 9th. This is Biddle’s debut novel.
It’s the summer of 2013 and 15-year-old Ivy Scattergood has traveled with her family to their vacation home in Maine. The Scattergoods are a blended, mixed-race family with old Philadelphia area Quaker roots. Ivy loves the Red Sox, one single music group at a time (this year it’s Johnnyswim), helping make dinner every night, and this guy in Maine named Bailey Cooper. Ivy also has no interest in makeup, heels, dresses, and most of the basic assumptions people make about what it means to be a teenage girl — but don’t call her a Tomboy, at least to her face. Then her cousin Robert from San Diego (also 15) comes to visit — as a beautiful, glamorous young woman who has re-named herself Rita Gomez.Thus begins a summer where Ivy’s worldview will expand, where she will discover new layers to herself and those around her, and where stepping forward into the unknown will emerge as a bold adventure. Lyrically written and brimming with spirit, OLD MUSIC FOR NEW PEOPLE is a luminous work of fiction.
It took me a while to come up with a rating on this one, I have very mixed feelings. Ultimately, I think it’s an important topic and could have been a great book but the execution was lacking, it felt like it went halfway to where it really needed to be to get this to be a really important and great read.
First off, Ivy as the narrator just didn’t work for this story. I really liked Ivy and I liked how she was a departure from your typical YA female main characters. She actually reminded me a little of myself in high school. However, she has a lot of feelings that are just not explained or backed up at all. She spends a good deal of the book angry at Rita and I honestly don’t know why (I think possibly she didn’t know why but it wasn’t explored enough to have that work). The romance piece was also done so half-heartedly, I didn’t believe a second of it. It was trying to be a chaste, sweet summer romance but there were no feelings to back it up. Plus suddenly Bailey seemed to be an important member of their family and present for every meal and event which I don’t understand or find realistic. Ivy also occasionally talked like a narrator talking about the past which seemed out of place as it was not introduced and only done a few times. In the end, I liked the idea of Ivy but she needed some more work to make her seem like a real person.
Then there’s the Rita storyline. There was some good stuff in here. A few times I thought it was really starting to get somewhere and have an important conversation and then it backed off and started talking about something else all together. Part of this is the issue of Ivy being an immature character to have as the narrator but trying to have her mind wander in the middle of some of these scenes was incredibly awkward. Some other pieces of this story just didn’t make sense or maybe would have made sense if we had Rita’s point of view or a little more explanation. It as all just a little too easy at the end after all of the buildup. I can’t personally speak to the trans rep but it didn’t seem realistic to me and is not own voices.
There were also a few storylines that kind of got dropped or only mentioned (problems with Ivy’s parents and a few random comments about Zaxy jump to mind immediately). The descriptions of music, scenery/lights, baseball, etc. all felt more like a movie or TV show and didn’t quite make a book.
Overall, I think this book almost worked but missed the mark which is unfortunate as a good book on YA trans issues is always needed.
*I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.