This book tells the story of a transgender teen girl, Rita, and her struggles to find out and accept who she is, but not from Rita’s view but from her cousin’s. At first, I really appreciated this concept and thought that it was a fresh and interesting way to tell the story and to show how the nearest family also is affected by Rita’s decision. But sadly, the concept didn’t feel as great after a while when there was too much transphobia and a main character that wasn’t very likable.
15-year-old Ivy Scattergood has traveled with her family to their vacation home in Maine, where also her cousin Robert will spend his summer. The only thing is that there is no Robert getting off the ferry, but instead a beautiful, glamorous young woman who has re-named herself Rita Gomez. Thus starts a summer where Ivy and her family will question their views of the world, their beliefs, understanding and empathy.
At first, I really enjoyed getting the views from Ivy and how she described the reactions from her parents and her two brothers, and how she took Rita under her wings. But that changed when Ivy’s long time crush, Bailey Cooper, started to talk appreciatively about Rita and when Ivy’s brothers warmed up to her. From there, Ivy didn’t come across as a very likable person, sadly. With all focus on how Ivy felt about Rita being trans, rather than on how Rita herself experienced this major life-changing struggle she was going through, it made Ivy seem very selfish. She also had a bad attitude thinking that she knew everything and that the transition ‘wasn’t worth all the hassle to go through’ which in no way was for her to have any opinion about. There were also some scenes where Rita was being harassed and Ivy didn’t stand up for her, which really didn’t sit well with me. Especially as Ivy then complained about Rita’s parents letting her down and other people for not understanding.
Luckily, the whole Scattergood family seemed to go through a great development over the summer and to be more understanding at the end, but it was never really explained how this change happened, so it was a bit confusing at the same time.
I really enjoyed the writing style, but I had expected the things mentioned in the synopsis about the Scattergoods being a blended, mixed-race family with old Philadelphia area Quaker roots to at least play a part of the story. There were also some things that were a bit too detailed. Like the music references, and all Red Sox details. Even though Ivy was a huge fan, the baseball details were not of relevance for the story at all.
Old Music for New People had a lot of potential and the author clearly is a very skilled writer, but the execution wasn’t all that I had hoped for. But I appreciated the new concept and how it pinpointed the hardship and struggle transgender persons are faced with.
Thank you to Net Galley and The Story Plant for this advanced copy. All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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