Impossible Music

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

This is an idea we encounter occasionally in fiction: how we define ourselves when our central focus is taken from us. Usually these books focus on finding a new dream. Williams' book looks instead at approaching the dream from new angles. It asks us to consider the philosophical aspects of music and art. The plot itself is equal parts defining music and Simon coming to terms with his new reality. It's the difference between coping with and accepting his deafness. Or, as the text says, becoming deaf and accepting your life as a Deaf person. This is a character driven, literary novel. It suffers from some development issues, largely centering on G, but is still interesting to mull over.
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I wanted to like this due to the representation for the HOH/Deaf community. I tried really, really hard. I finished the book. I still didn't love it. The execution left a lot to be desired, the character development wasn't all there and felt rushed. Simon is relatable but that doesn't make him interesting enough to be a lead. The timeline jumping was confusing if you don't read it straight through in one sitting, and the involvement of romance/sex diluted the message for me. 

I feel like this had a lot of potential but didn't live up to it.
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IMPOSSIBLE MUSIC by Sean Williams is a recently released Young Adult novel in which Simon, the main character, undergoes a sudden and permanent hearing loss.  That would be difficult for any adolescent, but Simon is a member of a band and was planning to major in music at college so he truly struggles. Unfortunately, his thoughts (woe is me) are soon very repetitive and unengaging for readers who are perhaps less "into" music. The ideas explored here are fairly unique, but hard to grasp:  Simon wants to somehow create music for people who cannot hear AND have a hearing audience share the experience. The story jumps around in time so the mood does shift back and forth with a more upbeat tone, but these changes also make the story difficult to follow. More positively, IMPOSSIBLE MUSIC is set in Australia and deals with coming of age issues which are beautifully expressed: 
"Couldn't the part that cares have been destroyed as well? Life would be so much easier if I didn't care about music or uni or anything else I took for granted before ... But would I still be me?"
And "I think it's OK to be terrible, though, when you're starting out.  It means you're taking chances. You only have to worry if you stay terrible. That's what Dad told me once and he would know. Working out when to give up, he says, that's the hard thing."
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I took awhile to think about this book. More so because I really wanted to stew over the emotions I felt after reading it. I honestly really enjoyed reading this!. I have read a lot of reviews that talk about how they didn’t like that the author didn’t write from a personal perspective. I HIGHLY recommend reading the author’s note at the end of the book. It paints a really great picture of what the author has personal experienced and what lead him to writing this book. I do have a hard time reading books about my illness that are written by people who do not have my illness. They never seem to paint a vivid picture of what it really feels like. Although I am not deaf, therefore I cannot speak on behalf of that community, I still feel like the author did a great job at bringing awareness and perspective for those who have no experience in this chronic illness realm (if that is appropriate to call it that). Was it realistic? Maybe not so much (some character traits were a little far fetched) , but I really thought it was written beautifully with a lot of care.
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The concept of IMPOSSIBLE MUSIC totally hooked me. I love books about angsty musicians, so I knew I’d like Simon. I like fierce female characters, so I suspected I’d like G and Simon’s little sister, Maeve, also stole my heart. She’s strong and sometimes pushy, but you really get the sense that underneath that is a lot of love for her family.

In terms of the plot, this must have been a tough book to write. I felt like it dragged sometimes, but I don’t think that actually had to do with the pacing of the plot. I think it had more to do with the stakes. Simon’s goal is to find a way to celebrate/study/participate in music as a young deaf man. If he fails, he’ll be very sad. It’s not that that isn’t compelling. But I didn’t feel like the stakes ratcheted up as the story progressed.

I like the way the story braids together Simon’s love for music and his love for G. In lots of ways her emotional journey seems to be a mirror of his, sometimes revealing things to Simon that he wasn’t ready to face about himself. But she also calls him out on things he’s not ready to face, too. They make a good pair.

Readers who liked THE SCAR BOYS by Len Vlahos will like the gritty, emotional writing and the “diary of a band boy” style of the story.
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I received this e-ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I found myself enjoying this book far more than I expected to as someone who rarely picks up contemporary novels and knows next to nothing about how music is actually made. I thought the premise of Impossible Music sounded interesting and relatively unique, and I feel I was proven right in those respects.

I have already seen many reviews criticizing Impossible Music for not being an Own Voices story, but I think it would be a shame for anyone to choose that as a reason not to read this book. The author has an extensive note explaining the many years of research he did on Auslan, Deaf culture, and hearing loss journeys. (He also explained the many ways in which parts of this novel are rather autobiographical for him, a detail that did not escape me as I read.) Simon's journey was relateable and I never felt like any information was being force fed to me, instead developing organically on the page as Simon discovered it for himself.

The negatives here come down to what I think of as cosmetic changes. I thought the structure of having the plot told out of order was clunky at best and confusing and difficult to connect with at worst. And George-Who-Loves-Coffee came off as a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl... a trope I am utterly tired of.

But I learned so much about being deaf and about music that I almost didn't care about the negatives. Simon's compositions and performances were fascinating to me, and I am sure I'm going to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole with all of the recommendations the author left in his acknowledgements.

Trigger warning for (sometimes extensive) talk of suicide. Also one use of the r-word... which I found baffling. It wasn't used in a derogatory way, but it still seemed like a better word could have been used instead.
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Thank you Houghton Mifflin for the chance to read and review Impossible Music! Full review to come shortly.
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The  fact that this was a hearing writer doing a whole book about how deafness/hearing loss is terrible and messes up a life (even if Simon does eventually come to terms with things and isn't entirely derailed from his plans) bothered me, but even leaving that aside I felt like the book was more about being interested in music/performance theory than it was about telling a story. So much more time and effort was put into describing the Impossible Music presentations than in developing the characters - Roo and Sad Alan were practically the same person, Maeve was an extremely typical "annoying but secretly wise" younger sister character, and I didn't feel like there was much there there in Simon's relationship with G.
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I got an ARC of this book.

I am not too sure how I feel about this book. It isn't the worst book I have ever read, but it is far from the best book. It feels like it is lacking some depth, but I can't say from where exactly.

The characters are almost 3D. Instead they have a lot of emotions, but it was easy to pinpoint every reason and action before it happened. I wasn't left with a lot of mystery. Everything felt like it happened just so and it was a little like reading a textbook in the level of connection I was able to achieve with the characters. G is pretty much the manic pixie dream girl character, but the punk version. She is also not on page as much as I am used to from that trope. Instead the idea of her is present instead of her. Usually the manic pixie dream girl is my favorite character, but I didn't really know G because Simon really doesn't know her.

The depth of emotion for Simon was just everything is angry. He experiences everything an anger. Great. I can get behind that. A lot of my emotions are anger at first until I actually figure things out. The issue is there is no feeling of resolution when Simon figures out what he really feels. At one point G tells him flat out what his emotions are, because he isn't figuring them out. There wasn't all that much growth. The growth there was felt forced and very much not the growth that would be expected for a novel like this. 

I felt like the ending was just a let down. I don't know how to explain it, but everything about it just felt like it wasn't as big as Simon was making it out to be. It felt like there was just something missing. I can't put my finger on it. 

Overall, the book was ok. It wasn't great and it wasn't bad. I was often bored and felt trapped in a cycle of anger and confusion, but not even that intense of anger or confusion. If the book was half the length and written in a lower reading level, I probably would have loved it.
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Music can be transmitted through words. Not just music, but noise as well. If you find the right words and put them together, you will be able to hear a horse galloping through the green, windy mountain. Flowers dancing at the beat of the wind, bees buzzing from one bloom to the next. It is a beautiful thing to hear sounds through words, using past experiences and imagination as primary sources. I didn’t know, or maybe didn’t pay attention until I read this book, how silence, so clear and present, can be heard in the same way. This book is full if sounds, but also filled with silence. A silence that sometimes is welcomed and others it makes it hard to breath. It is written so beautifully it gives the reader that feeling of utter, never-ending and complete silence. I found myself listening more intently to the chirping of birds, the leaves crunching under my feet, the wind moving my hair, and also the annoying sounds like airplanes passing or the noise the air conditioner makes. Everything around me became a sound, even the seconds on the clock. My own breathing, my own heartbeat. It was the weirdest feeling to open myself to these sounds. Like how you blink and breathe naturally without thinking about it, but then you keep thinking about it, cannot stop thinking about it and so you keep your eyes open until they burn and you challenge yourself to see how long you can hold your breath, just to fool yourself into thinking you can control it, until something else gets your instant attention and you forget while your body resumes doing your job for you. I yearn for books that help you see the world through a different light, and this was it for me. The topic has always been important to me, so much I know ASL a little bit, and this book was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It is a beautifully painful story, written in a fantastic way and that in my opinion has relevance in the world we live in today. If you haven’t please read it. If you have, tell me what you think about it and don’t be afraid if we don’t agree! I’d love to hear from you anyways.

*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this wonderful book. All opinions are honest and my own.*
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I love the idea of this story, but the execution left something to be desired. Simon is mostly a relatable character with enough depth to make him interesting, his reactions to his sudden deafness and manner of dealing with it are very well written.  I was not a fan of the jumping back and forth in the timeline, I understand why it was done and probably would have accepted it a bit easier in a paper book that I could easily flip back in to check things. However, the pointless mentionings of sex ruined all of the potential of this book. I would not be able to recommend this to a school to purchase (which this would have been phenomenal for) and would not be comfortable presenting this to a teenage boy, despite that being the target audience. Though, having read it I can make sure parents are aware of those passages so they can make an informed decision. This book had so much potential, I wish it had been edited better.
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I started Impossible Music several times and was about to argue it was not for me, but something changed this last time I started and I found I did not want to put it down. 
I won't deny there were moments when the technical terms became a bit overwhelming. But there were just as many times the vocabulary captured my attention.
I have students who have passions for their craft, be it performing, music, art, and students with disabilities and I think Simon's journey is one they will want to experience.
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Simon Rain becomes deaf after a sudden stroke.  A musician with a plan to go to uni to study performance, this is the most devastating thing that could happen to him.  In Deaf class he meets a girl named G, who suffers from tinnitus.  Impossible Music takes us through Simon's journey of accepting his new fate and how he can adjust to being a musician if he can't hear.

I felt the book dragged a lot.  Much of the story happens in Simon's head, in his thought patterns, rather than in more interactions with the outside world.  While the author does show him interacting with G, with his former bandmates Roo and Sad Alan, and his family, I found it very difficult to read this book and almost put it down several times.  I don't feel that the author brought Simon to the audience in depth enough that we really cared about him.
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This book was a little all over the place, and there were some things that just didn't feel necessary? I felt like focus on other things would have made the story flow better and make more sense. The out of chronological order entries also only served to make things more confusing rather than aiding the telling of the story.
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I wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed reading this. An interesting story with fun characters. Well written.
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Music is my life. If forced to pick between books and music, I might pick music (don't tell books I said that.) I'm not going to talk about how much money I spent on concerts today. In a recent Sean newsletter, he recommended the new Billie Eilish album, so I've got to admit I was a bit scared coming into this about whether he could effectively capture what it is to adore music with every ounce of your soul. Yes, I'm a judgemental human being. But I think Sean really depicted what it's like to love music with all your being.

My biggest issue with this was, of course, the romance. Hello, romanticization of a girl with mental health issues. I did not feel a thing for this couple, and instead, I felt very sad because once again we were shown a girl with suicidal ideation who turns to a boy to solve her problems. Not okay, guys. Not okay. Not healthy behaviour in real life, and shouldn't be depicted this way in fiction without an explicit warning and comment that no, it's not okay. I hope that the final version of this book will include some resources and hotlines.

I did absolutely adore all of the Impossible Music pieces. These were exceptionally well thought out and I'd love to see them come to life. His perseverance in getting this to become a reality was really inspiring. His friends were also excellent.

Sean Williams has such a wide range of talent; it's quite remarkable. I need to go back and reread TWINMAKER as I loved those books so much. Ultimately though, I put this book down too many times and wasn't super excited to continue reading it like I was TWINMAKER. I wasn't in love with the characters themselves.
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I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are completely my own. 

I fully admit there is likely an audience to whom this book appeals, but I am not it. 

The story is definitely interesting in premise and the writing is nice and straightforward, as you would expect from a male narrator, especially at that age. 

I completely understand, given the circumstances, that the narrator would be very angry at the world. However, it set the tone so much that it made it difficult to read. (And, of course, then we have G, who is "not like other girls.") The Australian diction also made it harder to get through. 

I can definitely see fans of Switched At Birth and Twilight picking this up, as it seems to be somewhere in between the two. (No supernatural, just lots of pretentiousness.)
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This concept was so promising linking music and hearing impairment. It really could have had a moment and it could have been so amazing. Maybe what this really needed was a HOH/Deaf sensitivity reader? Idk. Teens may be interested in this because of the music-hearing loss link ... but that doesn’t mean it’s one that I really want to put into their hand
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I think this is a great book for the YA audience.  What do you do when you lose a sense that is important to what you love?  How do you cope?  This books touches on that when Simon, who loves music, loses his hearing.  It's a story of struggling to accept a sudden change that you could not have predicted would ever happen.
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I was very excited to be allowed to receive this arc copy, I was automatically drawn in by the cover and once I read the synopsis I couldn’t wait to read it. I have always been interested in different disabilities or auto immune diseases, being a person belonging to one of those categories. I did love the knowledge that the book provided about the deaf community and The hearing impaired . 
 Upon reading I was quickly drawn in and did not take long for me to like the book and breeze through the book . I thought it was very well put together and I really enjoyed reading it. 
 I liked the flow of the book with how they broke down the conversations between the hearing impaired characters and the characters who could still here normally. I liked the way that they described Auslan ( Australian Deaf Community )  and how all the characters needed to use sign to survive and thrive . 
Simon was recently diagnosed with a hearing impaired problem / disability and quickly had to  divulge  in a world where everything was silenced for him and he could not hear. He was coming from a world where he was used to hearing everything especially music. He adores music so much ! 
I myself for one , love music and really love how they portrayed that life is a song through their journey . 
I felt for each character and grew to love them quickly and would definitely recommend this book to anyone needing self help, self-awareness, dealing with adjusting to a new life or disease or disability. I felt the information about all the disabilities was very well put together. 
I like the story all around and how it began, the middle, and the end and will definitely recommend this book. Thank you so much for the opportunity of this book and the knowledge of the hearing impaired .
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