Thursday 11 May 2017


Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

I was super impressed by Riley Redgate's debut novel Seven Ways We Lie, which I had the pleasure to review last year. It was a superb contemporary YA read, touching upon many different issues facing young people today and with a diverse cast of characters. It was clever, gripping and hugely relatable, making it not only fun novel for today's teens but also a very important one. So as soon as I heard about Riley's second novel, which would be set in the competitive world of university a cappella competitions, I was sold.

Jordan Sun is a junior at Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. She loves acting and singing but despite her hard work, she never gets cast in the school musical. And to her parents, who focus on clear academic results (the stereotype about Asian parenting proving very true in Jordan's case) it seems that Jordan doesn't need to be at the expensive boarding school. She's not good enough to get cast in the musical, so she might as well come home and save the much-needed expense that they can't really afford.

Desperate to prove her parents wrong, but unable to travel the traditional road to success with her unusual Alto 2 voice, on a whim Jordan auditions for a slot that has recently opened up in one of the popular college a cappella groups; The Sharpshooters. There is only one catch... the group is an all male one, and so not only does Jordan have to pretend to be a guy during the audition rounds, if she actually makes it through she'll have to become her male alter-ego for the rest of her time at Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts.

Doesn't the summary to Noteworthy sound like an absolute hoot? It instantly reminded me of a Pitch Perfect twist to the 2006 classic She's the Man, starring Amanda Bynes as a girl-dressing-up-as-a-boy to join a boy's soccer team (inspired by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, but She's the Man is arguably the much more well-known classic out of the two, of course) and the comedy elements within Noteworthy did definitely feel reminiscent of that.

However, while there were tons of laughs to be had within the pages of this book, there was far more substance to the story than there perhaps seems to be on the surface. Yes, this is a classic gender swap at its core, with all the misunderstandings and mishaps that accompany that, but Jordan's transformation throughout the book, especially after assuming her alter-ego for a while, was remarkable. And the questions it brings up about gender as a result of this are fascinating and certainly worth to be explored further.

Not only that, but author Riley Redgate also sensitively deals with topics such as race and poverty in such a way that it will make the reader think about this on a much deeper level than most young adult novels manage to achieve. It creates a story that is rooted in the many challenges faced by today's teenagers battling the precarious and confusing road to adulthood, and will hopefully provide some guidance, and perhaps even a beacon of light in the distance, for those struggling with similar issues.

Combining the laughs of the situation Jordan finds herself in and the depth of the story it's rooted in, Riley has created a really gripping, not to mention awesome, novel that I adored even more than her debut (and that's saying a lot, because I loved Seven Ways We Lie!). Noteworthy discusses subjects such as gender, race, religion and poverty in honest and enlightening ways, and is wrapped in a contagiously fun musical theatre and a cappella package. What is there not to love?!

Noteworthy is published by Abrams & Chronicle and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.

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