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Thrown together by coincidence, Max and Jordan spend the summer together working in a food truck, sweating in the Arizona heat. The truck once belonged to Jordan’s late father; his death and financial hardship have pushed Jordan to take the truck out in order to save up money to keep his family’s home. Max just needs a summer job.
Bill Konigsberg’s latest book The Music of What Happens continues the author’s practice of tackling difficult subjects with a light touch. The author’s style is heartfelt and breezy, descriptors that may sound discontinuous with the book’s themes of toxic masculinity, sexual assault, family trauma, and addiction. Nonetheless, Konigsberg pulls it off. His work is approachable and filled with the joys of being a teenager in summer. The book also illuminates the teen’s burgeoning understanding of the darkness in the world and their unironic ability to fall in love.
Jordan and Max offer a refreshingly honest representation of modern, queer adolescence. Both of the young men are out, but they are still cautious. From confusing Grindr hookups and makeovers with their friends, these characters demonstrate diverse experiences and struggles. Their sexuality is one facet of many, including race and class, that impact their struggles and how they navigate them.
In The Music of What Happens, Max and Jordan encounter some of the most difficult struggles a teenager can face, but readers know these characters will be okay. With great effect, readers stand witness to these characters’ comforting ability to cultivate the skills they need to persevere.
The Music of What Happens
By Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books
Hardcover, 9781338215502, 352 pp.