Cover Image: Old Music for New People

Old Music for New People

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I am not sure what I was expecting from this book but I walked away with a lot. More understanding, more critical thinking, more exploration and rationale for another path chosen.
To sum up at the very beginning “ People generally don’t like feeling life is complicated and strange.” But that is exactly what life is and this book digs deep into the complexity of Robert/Rita Scattergood’s search for self. That the entire family gets pulled into the discovery and journey opens up each member’s beliefs, from the youngest to the oldest, to the realm of possibilities and decisions transgender kids face, and they aren’t all pretty.

“The vessel of a boy coming to earth with a girl packed inside is certainly a perplexing dilemma.” Is it a matter of choice which path to follow? Or is it a very complex concept that “you are who you are” and to choose invalidates who you become. Pretty engaging rhetoric. Told in the voice of a fifteen year old girl, Ivy Scattergood, the reader is reliant on her powers of observation, deduction, reasoning and often her confusion and intolerance as she discovers herself and her family.

Set in Maine where the stars are never boring, the story is well told with great dialogue responding to the inner thoughts of Ivy, her family and friends. Admitting to not always knowing what they are thinking or saying makes the story so believable. Realizing that so much in the world is real but not really makes for scary thoughts and greater questions and wonderment that all might just be approximations and wow where is this all going?!

I am rounding up for the caliber of writing. Thank you NetGalley and The Story Plant for a copy.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley, but there was too much transphobia for me to make it very far into it. I would have tried to finish it if I thought the author was getting at something interesting, but that clearly wasn’t going to be the case. It was basically just the cis main character getting used to her trans cousin and the rest of the family being transphobic about and to the cousin. Also the way the narrator talked about race was strange to say the least. The writing wasn’t that bad, but I had no interest in the characters or the story.

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Thank you to NetGalley and David Biddle for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summertime meets family in this new YA novel. When Ivy's cousin comes to live with her and her family for the summer, she is thrown. She remembers her cousin Robert, but is now face to face with Rita. Discover what it means to be true to yourself, regardless of how others feel.

This book really encapsulates how it feels to be a trans person in a family that isn't completely accepting right off the bat. Rita has some very real experiences and her pain should not be overlooked. This book allows trans people to being seen and understood, and cis people can understand a trans person's experiences.

I felt there were some points where Ivy was mad at Rita without any motivation. Although there was some background to this anger, it seemed to come and go with the drop of a hat, which made Ivy's feelings weaker in my opinion. One moment she would be yelling at Rita for something and the next she would be best friends with her.

Although Rita is one of the main focuses of this book, Ivy does have a romantic interest that is the center of this book as well. This book does a great job of containing multiple storylines and weaving them all together so they connect and aren't too confusing for the reader.

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Being a teenager is a confusing time between what your own hormones are doing, what society tells you that they should be doing, and now the demanding voices of other people’s hormones saying “hear me, see me, accept me”. When you look in the mirror and most of the time struggle with what you are seeing there, young people are now publicly having to deal with other people's struggle too and be accepting of it even if they do not know how they feel.

David Biddle displays this struggle within the Scattergood family when cousin Rita visits for the summer and puts everyone’s ideas of identity, adulthood, maturity, and their own biases on the table to talk about in Old Music for New People. It is an honest conversation about the struggle to understand someone’s transgender journey. Biddle starts this road from Quaker ideals as the family has been raised in the Quaker belief system. Their knowledge of the rainbow community is from television and not their reality. Now Ivy’s mother is a doctor so her knowledge might be more expansive, but still Rita’s appearance was a shock to her too.

Biddle incorporates transphobia from Rita’s own parents and the potential of their parents divorcing (ssshhh Rita doesn’t know). There is also the “normal” family angst between siblings that taints decisions made. Let’s not forget that Ivy and Rita are both 15-year-old girls and there can be problems there (okay, yes there is (laugh)).

There is a technique that Biddle utilizes that I do not care for and that is foreshadowing of events to come. It would be different if at the beginning of the book Ivy stated something to the effect that she was telling you what happened over the summer, then the conversational foreshadowing would work. It doesn’t in this case, for me, it is just annoying.

I love the conversation in Old Music for New People. It is difficult, uncomfortable, and awkward. I have always thought that I have been a full supporter of everyone in the rainbow, but some of the questions asked I thought, “huh, good question.” I have never thought to ask anyone these questions and have just blindly accepted whatever people tell me about themselves without asking, “how, why, where, when…”. Biddle asks these questions and it makes me squirm reading the questions and hearing the answers. The funny thing is these answers have been here for hundreds of years and only now are people starting to listen...kind of like Old Music for New People.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

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TW: transphobia

DNF at 20% as the transphobia was really evident in the main character and her family towards Rita and I'm not in the headspace for reading further at this point.

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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.

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thank you to netgally for the arc. I think it is wonderful that this book seeks to provide representation for younger readers. I enjoyed the premise, the setting, characters,

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Thanks to netgalley for this arc in exchange of a honest review.
The concept of the book was very original and honestly i think it had so much potential. A fresh perspective for a story like this is very much need right now.

However there were things that definitely didnt let me enjoy the story such as the constant transphobia, which even though i guess it was part of the plot it was way to much for a story that wanted to encourage the opposite.

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First of all, I want to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book before its launch date.
Old Music for new people tells the story of the Scaterwood family and how their cousin Robert says she is Rita from now on.
I was so gossiped about how the author was going to treat this delicate topic, because it needs to be written in a proper way, not with the lack of information I found on it.
This could have been a very beautiful book, but it has transphobia throughout the book. I could understand it wasn't the author's purpose, but I can just talk about the results.
Despite this, it’s fast paced and enjoyable, entertaining. I liked the story, it’s beautiful, but, as I said, in some parts of the book, transphobia peek out.
The next time, the author jus need to inform himself about this topic, because I liked his form of writing as well as the building of the history.

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I think it is wonderful that this book seeks to provide representation for younger readers. I enjoyed the premise, the setting, characters, etc. My main criticism is that some of the dialogue felt like it was trying to educate the reader more than serving the plot of the story.

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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 to be true to herself. 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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By David Biddle
Publisher: Fiction Studio Books
Reviewer: Sandy Whelchel, Executive Director, National Writers Association

The Scattergoods, an established Maine family are about to have their quiet summer retreat upset. Enter “Rita” or is it “Robert”? Scat Scattergood’s brother, Ed has sent his son Robert to spend the summer with his relatives, Ed has decided his “trans-gender” son needs to figure out his “trans” issues over the summer in Maine far from his California home and his parents.
Ivy Scattergood who is closest to Robert in age is at first intrigued, then angry, then accepting of this stranger in their midst. Ivy has her own teen angst to deal with as she tries to deal with her first “crush” on the local sailing instructor/baseball star.
Older teens and adults will enjoy following the Scattergoods as they confront one of modern day issues. This book confronts the “trans gender” issue with logic and sensitivity. OLD MUSIC FOR NEW PEOPLE is a “recommend read” in my opinion.

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It almost worked as a book, but ultimately I think there was just too much transphobia in this book for me to like it. I can have some sympathy for people like the Scattergoods, who don't really think transition is wrong and want to be kind to their cousin but have things they just don't "get" or that they feel uneasy about. But a whole book of their views was a lot, and I wonder who this book serves.

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The Scattergood family was expecting their cousin/nephew Robert for a summer visit, but instead were met with Rita. Rita is trying to figure out who she is and how to be that person in her world.

Ivy, our narrator, is confused by Rita at first and somehow angry at the distribution to her life. But she’s figuring out her own stuff like first loves, music and what family really means.

I like the messiness of the Scattergood family as most families are. They mess up and hurt but are committed to figuring life out together.

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I loved that this story shines a light on Transgender issues. I felt Ivy was immature and acted like she knew everything, but I also tried hard to remember that she is a child. I enjoyed learning about Rita and her past. I felt this was a good story, but it lacked some background that could have made it even better. Some details were overdeveloped, while others needed more.

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Old Music for New People is the first novel from author David Biddle. This novel is set in 2013 and follows fifteen year old Ivy for a summer. The Scattergood family is a blended, mixed race family from Philadelphia. Ivy enjoys the Red Sox, one music group at a time, helping her family make dinner every night, and a baseball player in their summer home of Maine. She is more of a tom-boy (although she really doesn’t like that term) than a girly-girl. She and her family are shocked when her cousin Robert flies in from San Diego, not looking like a fifteen year old boy, but a beautiful young woman, calling herself Rita Gomez. Ivy’s small world explodes as she learns more about herself and those around her.

First of all, I really think there needs to be more books written for young adults that bring up transgender issues. While there are more recently written, transgender young adults still struggle, and it may be of some help to read books with transgender characters.

But on to the review. I love Ivy and at times I also really disliked Ivy. There were times she was such a compassionate person, listening to those who needed to be heard, but other times, she was a “goody-two-shoes” as Rita would say. Since Ivy is a fifteen year old girl, and hasn’t experienced much in life, she sometimes has this attitude that she knows everything (which I guess would be what a teenager is like!). But as the story goes on, she slowly realizes she doesn’t in fact know everything and she tries to see the world from the eyes of those around her.

And then there is Robert/Rita. I can’t even begin to imagine what this character was going through! Robert knew at a young age that he was different, that something wasn’t right. As he explored these feelings when he was younger, his parents supported him. But as he got older and knew exactly what he wanted to be in life, he no longer had the support of his parents. They were going through big changes themselves and didn’t know how to deal with Robert and his issues, so they sent him away for the summer. In that time, Rita started to evolve. She began to learn what she really wanted in life and at times wasn’t afraid to go after it, even if it meant costing her relationships with her parents.

Overall, this was a good novel. The description (and one time at the beginning) mentions Ivy and her family being Quakers. I was expecting a little more of that to play into the story, but it really didn’t. Not knowing much about Quakers myself, I wanted to see how that would be integrated into the story. I also felt sometimes there were parts that were overly detailed. For example, there was a scene on the boat where everyone was reading. It went into great detail about the books. The books didn’t factor into what was going on at the time in the story, so they were just a lot of unnecessary details. Also along those lines were all the extra details about the Red Sox. I understand Ivy was a huge fan, but that particular part of the story felt like it was about the baseball team and not Ivy.

I give this book four stars. You can snag your copy of Old Music for New People when it comes out on December 7th. Thank you to Net Galley and The Story Plant for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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LOVED THIS!! So so so good! Thank you Netgalley for this copy! I was drawn to the title and cover, and it did not dissapoint. Sooo good!!

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In Old Music for New People, we got to see family drama, love, and self-doubt. I like how Ivy was so straight forward, she confronted her cousin and wasn’t going to put up with anyone’s bs. Some parts really get to you and I love those parts because you get to reflect on those moments and how impactful they are. Even though Ivy doubts Rita for who she might be, she still supports her through anything and everything. I also like the ending where we learn about Baileys music taste and what he really likes and we got to see Rita when she’s back home. Even though there were some good moments, there were some confusing moments too. Overall this advance readers copy is amazing and would recommend it to my friends and family!!

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