This was the best book I’ve read in a really long time. Literally 5 stars. I love the music and kingdom heart and anime references. It was a gorgeous book with a beautiful love story perfect for kids that grew up on the internet
In great YA fashion, this novel attacks many different themes. But I loved every second of it. I think the author does a great job in talking about different kinds of love, and leaves the audience hungry for more.
Beating Heart Baby is a must-read. Period.
I had to sit on this review for a bit because, frankly, this book gutted me in all the best possible ways. There is so much love within the pages of this book: self-love, familial love, platonic love, romantic love. The depth that Lio Min plunges, that they are able to translate into written words, is masterful. This is ultimately a story about finding joy in spite of pain, and I fell in love immediately.
This is not only a queer ode, but an ode to music, art, and anime. Showing the deep connections that people can make even through a computer screen, Min hones into the heartbeat of their main characters, giving the readers a view of events from both Santi and Suwa's experiences. There is a before and a now and an after which circulates throughout the story, highlighting the circular nature of human existence.
This sounds like a lot for a YA novel, but I would argue that A) the general population consistently underestimates teenagers and B) that the experiences felt and relayed in this book do transcend the YA genre. This will connect current teen readers, those Gen Z kids, with their Gen Y or Gen X parents. But this will also tap into the Millennial experience - this generation who started without the internet at their finger tips, but developed the language that Gen Z lives out now. How disembodied intimacy started in the early chatrooms, LiveJournals, and MySpace forums, and has developed into a way people often connect and create relationships in this vastly digital landscape; where those that search can find connection.
Being a former band kid, the fact that marching band was a big part of this book was so comforting. The family that is developed in a world where you have to rely on one another to hit your mark, to play you assigned part, to be able to come together to create music, is different than any family you develop in other groups. Music has a way of bringing people together that not many other art forms contain. The quote that is at the center of this story, "The worst thing about music is that other people get to hear it", comes from singer Mitski, but in the book comes from a fictional anime, "Mugen Glider", that has large significance to both main characters. This quote really exposes the fear of creation at the center of this book. While it works to bring people, often strangers, together, music is also deeply personal, exposing all the emotions poured into that act of creation. Musicians know, whether playing your own original music, or being a conduit for others', that music itself transports you.
Lio Min grabs you and immerses you in this love story that Santi and Suwa are going through. You feel transported into their minds with each point of view. The feeling of creation through music and art is titular, and does become the beating heart of this novel. Again, a must read. Period.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book.
Ever finished a book and IMMEDIATELY needed to flip back to page one and start the whole heartbreaking journey all over?!
Well, that has been my experience with BHB. I loved this book from page one. The characters, the plot, the conflicts, the remorse, the pain, the longing… all of it was perfectly terrible and so necessary.
Once you read BHB, you’ll understand.
This was such an original concept and a very intriguing read. I was first drawn in by the title, but the prose was haunting and aching from the start and not at all what I expected, in a great way.
I loved the found family, Aya and CAP and how accepting and supportive they were. Santi and Suwa's relationship was extremely complicated which felt realistic. I love that we have Trans Authors of colors writing these super queer and complex stories.
I understand the complexities that made it difficult for Suwa to allow himself to get what he wanted vs what he felt he should want but it was really difficult reading some of those scenes. Homeboy was just so Anti for most of the book! I found myself wondering if I should DNF and come back to the story later because some of the pacing and plot just wasn't resonating with me. Overall It was a solid debut and I will check out Lio Min's next piece of work.
i adored santi and suwa, both individually and their relationship. their story will stay with me for a while. one of my favourite debuts of the year for sure.
Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for the ARC of this novel. Not being trans myself, I have to say this is an amazing viewpoint of someone transitioning and seeing their inner monologue and how their horrible experience with their extended family while transitioning affected their relationships was eye opening. The wonder of these two characters finding each other and parting but coming back together with forgiveness and love was wonderful. The description of "devastatingly romantic" is perfect for this. Part of reading this hurts but in a good way. My goodness, I hope more people get their hands on this.
I found this one too meandering and too obvious. The blow-out between the two protagonist is telegraphed from the very beginning. The obviousness aside, the characters and their personal exploration are far more compelling.
This book broke me into a million pieces. It hit me way too hard for the age of having online only friends and being too young to ever be able to meet them. The joy and horror of meeting them in real life. I'm obsessed with this book and I'm so so glad I had the time to squeeze it into my schedule.
I cannot recommend this one enough. Absolutely brilliant.
What an absolutely adorable book! I love nothing more than a queer romance, and this one was so sweet and intimate.. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves queer romance.
A delightfully swoony, tender look at young love in the internet age. This truly warmed my cold, dead heart.
Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for this eARC of Beating Heart Baby by Lio Min. All opinions are my own.
Beating Heart Baby is a book about passions and finding your people: the ones you've never met in real life, the ones who will hold you when the going gets tough, and the passions inside of you that eventually become so great that they have to be shared with the world.
Santi has just moved to LA; he's a talented artist and musician and he's hoping he'll fit in with the prestigious Sunshowers, the competitive marching band at his new school, Suwa is one of the best musicians in the band—and he instantly sees Santi as competition. Per our typical enemies-to-friends-to...something...trope we love to see, Santi and Suwa come to a mutual understanding over accidentally revealed secrets. But sometimes the pain of these secrets is too great, for both of them, to bear. They rend themselves apart right when they need each other most—and neither know how to cope with the revelations alone.
Beating Heart Baby is a beautiful love letter to art and music—loving it, making it, and being a part of it. It's also a love letter to the way bonds form across time and space in online spaces. As someone who belongs in fandom communities and has friends I communicate with that I've never physically met, I adored this part of the plot because it legitimized these relationships and shows how they can be just as intimate and important to us as our people in real life.
Beyond that, this book is filled with beautiful representations of people from all over the LGBTQ+ rainbow and from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Oh my gosh, this book destroyed me. I was kind of nervous to read this book because of all of the good reviews, but goodness gracious. I LOVED IT. If you are looking for a LGBTQ+ book that is fill of family, friends, music, food, and perfection, you need to give this book a read. I promise you will not be disappointed!
3.75 stars: Tender yet emotional, BEATING HEART BABY is a raw and real story of found family and growing into oneself, and a love letter to anime, art, and music.
This book bursts with youth, the trials and triumphs of it and the people one meets along the way, like Santi and Suwa do; it is impossible for more mature readers to not feel a sense of melancholic nostalgia reading it. The found families in this novel are also touching: for queer youth who face difficulties from not only the world but also their very own blood family, found families are life-saving and it is so great seeing them here.
As for the characters, it is satisfying seeing them grow. I have to admit, the book covers more ground/encompasses longer time period that I initially expected. Though I do feel like throttling both Santi and Suwa at times, their characterization is great, complex and nuanced, and I love how both protagonists are queer boys of color, which is still hard to find these days. BEATING HEART BABY is also a love letter to anime, music, and art; Min's sincere love for the aforementioned are very apparent and I enjoy all the relatable references.
However, I have a few issues with the novel. Considering how important Memo is to Santi and how the latter spirals for years after their online friendship ends, it is a little confusing that Santi suddenly ceases to think about Memo after settling in LA until he suspects Suwa's identity. How he messes up prior to Suwa's audition also feels gratuitous, added in just for some drama, making all the character growth Santi's had seems all for naught.
Santi and Suwa's reunion also feels too sudden, one minute they are weary then all over each other the next, and their inner thoughts often seem like the same thing repeated over and over, going nowhere, making the narrative repetitive at times. The pacing of the book's second half is a little weird, in my opinion. I also wish the coda explained more about how the main characters grapple with their distance; obviously they still make it work four years later, but how do they do it exactly, especially since both were anxious over it?
This is a novel that brims with youth, one that deftly explores themes of found family, the arts, and achieving one's dreams. It is refreshingly, effortlessly queer (with the main characters being queer men of color), though there are aspects I wish were handled better.
Honestly I kind of wish this book were like, a hundred pages longer. Not just because I wanted more, but also because I wanted this book to just be drawn out a little longer. I wanted to kind of wallow in a lot more moments, but I guess that's what rereading is for. This young adult queer romance reminded me a lot of Nina LaCour's young adult works, especially We Are Okay, except not as sad? Or kind of like a music-related Anne-Marie McLemore book? (Self-Made Boys, you're not included in this readalike round-up). I really liked this. It's better than the "just okay" YA romances I've been reading; it's queer, it's here, and it can be in your hands now. Four and a half stars, rounding down for Netgalley/Goodreads.
Santi has just moved to LA, where he’s joining his new school’s marching band. He makes fast friends with his bandmates, with the exception of Suwa–a musical prodigy who is stoic and guarded. As Santi and Suwa spend more time together, the ice between them begins to melt and they fluidly become friends and then more. But the two have a complicated history behind them and an uncertain future before them that could threaten to unravel them.
And its core, Beating Heart Baby is a celebration of queer love and how it can be beautiful, messy, complex, and revolutionary. It’s about how love and friendship can help us put the pieces of ourselves back together after we’ve been shattered. One of the most overarching themes of Beating Heart Baby is also music. Santi and Suwa are both musicians, and this is an integral part of them as individuals and their relationship. In particular this book explores who music belongs to and the power of creating music not for the masses, but for yourself or for the people you love most intimately. This novel also has a strong theme of found family for both Santi and Suwa’s personal journeys; as a queer reader, I love seeing this element since found/chosen family is pivotal for so many queer & trans folk.
Santi and Suwa are both fully fleshed out characters who readers will easily fall in love with. Santi is a mixed Filipino-American (his paternal lineage is unspecified) who has been raised by his mother’s best friend Aya since his mom’s sudden death; Santi is carrying his own pain and while he has a passion for art & music, he’s also moving through life heartbroken and untethered. Meanwhile, Suwa, who is a trans Korean & Japanese-American boy, has his own struggles around his family’s response to his gender identity as well as cultural tensions between the sides of his family.
Beating Heart Baby is somewhat leisurely paced and is heavily character-driven. Lio Min’s writing is utterly lyrical, making the whole book flow as if it were an album. In fact, the book is structured like an album, with the book split in half: an ‘A side’ from Santi’s perspective, followed by a ‘B side’ from Suwa’s viewpoint. I would have preferred alternating perspectives rather than the book being split into two parts—I found that I spent the first 50% getting deeply invested in Santi as a character, so I didn’t want to say goodbye to him once it switched to Suwa’s voice. While this structure wasn’t my favorite, it did make sense with the book’s musical theme. Beating Heart Baby is a love letter to music, but it’s also a celebration of queer love and friendship. It’ll be adored by music lovers, anime watchers, and anyone who has ever had an online BFF. As a teen services librarian, I’m looking forward to purchasing this book for my library and recommending it to readers who enjoy the raw emotions of authors like Ashley Woodfolk, Dean Atta, and Nina LaCour. Lio Min’s debut is hauntingly beautiful, and I can’t wait to read more from them.
I think overall this was really good! I don't have a ton to say about it because it really was a bit different from what I was expecting, though not in a bad way. It was a very quick read for me once it got going and the characters were really the best part of the story for me. They felt very genuine and their feelings for one another were complex and well developed. I think my only complaint is the POV and time change was just in a bit of a jarring position in the story. But overall, this was a solid read!
I wanted to read this book because I thought it was a reference to the Head Automatica song. It might be, but that's not the reason in the book. It's not a bad thing, as every time I see the title, I get the song in my head, and the song rules.
Beating Heart Baby is a heartbreaking tale of romance and trauma, and the herculean effort it can take to work through trauma to build relationships. It's also about the power of high school friendships and music. Most of the characters are LGBTQ+ or allies, which is a nice change to some of the books I read. It's not a fairy tale where being queer is safe, but it shows how communities can build safe spaces. It showcases both queer trauma and joy.
The thing that most surprised me was that when it got to what felt like the climax, I still had half the book left. It's a romance, so I don't like it's a spoiler to say the climax is the break up, and you know they will get back together. I didn't think that Lio Min could keep me interested enough for another whole half of a book while waiting for the eventual reconciliation, but they did! Again, this isn't a fairy tale, and both Suwa and Santi have to work on themselves and their relationship before they reunite. This process wasn't boring or banal, but instead really moving. I learned something about myself as Suwa worked through his issues.
This is definitely a book for music lovers, marching band nerds (me), romance readers, and LGBTQ+ people and their allies. If you want a look at one character's trans experience (no experience is universal), you'll learn a lot meeting Suwa.
I received a free ARC from Netgalley for an open and honest review.