Cover Image: Beating Heart Baby

Beating Heart Baby

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Member Reviews

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!
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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.
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This is one of those rare 5 star books. I couldn't put it down. 

The book follows Santi and Suwa through their friendship from middle school until early adulthood. It's so easy to fall in love with these two and my heart broke when they split up. 

The book contains several POC and one of the main characters is trans. The author wrote about it a way that's beautiful and respectful. It's sincere without being exploitive. 

I can't wait to see what the author writes next.
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This strong debut YA/NA novel celebrates queerness, found family, marching band, anime, and most of all indie music. "Side A" of the book (you know, like a record) is told from the POV of half Filipino, pansexual Santi, who has just moved to LA with Aya, his mother's best friend/guardian, to repeat his junior year of high school. It's a chance for a fresh start, as Santi has blown off school for the past few years, drifting aimlessly after his mother died and an online friendship ended disastrously. On his first day of marching band practice, he is immediately adopted by a group of seniors, most of whom are queer, and the warm, welcoming band director Cap. For the first time in years Santi has something to look forward to and a stable routine. The only wrong note is the trumpet section leader, Suwa Moon, who seems to have a personal vendetta against Santi for no apparent reason.

But after Santi helps Suwa get through a panic attack, their relationship quickly starts to change. Starting with a shared love of older, obscure anime, the two boys find a lot of common ground, and their attraction sizzles. Suwa plans to audition to be the opening act for Cola Carter, a rising female singer, so the boys will probably have to say goodbye soon, but Santi hopes that they can find a way to keep their relationship going somehow. Until a secret is revealed that changes everything that Santi and Suwa thought they knew about each other.

Side B is narrated by Japanese/Korean transmasculine Suwa, who dealt with negative, punitive reactions from family and schoolmates to his transition, to the point where he is afraid to trust anyone enough to get close. Even the other marching band members don't know the full truth. That changes when he and Santi become involved, but he still reacts impulsively when he thinks he has been betrayed.

The romance between Santi and Suwa is very angsty, especially in the second half, but Lio Min skillfully captures the joy of finally finding someone who gets you after you have been lonely for years. Suwa's lyrics are poetic and emotional, reflecting his trauma and heartbreak. He struggles with when and how to fully come out to his growing number of fans; if talking about his struggle helps others like him live their truth, isn't it selfish for him to hold back?

"I know what Cola wants from me. To smile and save at the audience and talk about how grateful and proud I am to be here, and how my being here is something to celebrate. To be the T in her diverse, "queer" coalition. But I'm just a boy who's figuring out how to be a man. And I don't really feel like I have the right to celebrate anything when I'm alive, but so many of my would-be "siblings" aren't."

Santi's journey is less dramatic, and because we lose his narrative voice in the second half, it doesn't resonate as much. But his own dreams start to be realized, and like Suwa he realizes how lucky he has been to have the support of Aya, Cap, and his fellow queer band kids.

The book wraps up with a beautiful coda, using third person narrative to show both boys in a good space, individually and as a couple, looking forward to a summer together that is just beginning. I'm sure that I missed plenty of cultural references throughout the story, having no knowledge of anime or K-drama, but that didn't stop me from being deeply invested in ensuring that Santi and Suwa got their HEA.

ARC received from Net Galley in exchange for honest review.
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I was originally drawn into reading Beating Heart Baby because of it’s stunning cover. Then, I read the synopsis and so many amazing reviews for the book and I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. Throughout this book we follow Santi as he arrives at his new high school. He is welcomed with opened arms by everyone in the marching band there. Everyone except, the musical prodigy Suwa who doesn’t think Santi has what it takes to be in the band. But they both share painful pasts and when they open up a friendship begins and it soon turns into something more.

This book was so lovely to read. It is a love letter to music, finding and then accepting yourself, found family and dreams. I felt so many emotions whilst reading this book. One minute, I was smiling and the minute after I could be angry and then sad. This book definitely takes you through every single emotion and it is amazing.

I loved the structure of this book. It is set out like a album. Each chapter is titled as a ‘track’ and the book is divided into Side-A and Side-B. Side-A is told from Santi’s perspective. He is shy and quiet and still recovering from mistakes in his past. I adored Santi’s character and seeing him grow throughout the book. Side-B is told from Suwa’s perspective. Suwa is a trans and going through his own journey of growth and understanding. His story is inspirational and very emotional.

Beating Heart Baby deals with some very heavy topics and I suggest you look at the trigger warnings before going into this book. This book discusses suicide, anxiety, depression, homophobia, transphobia, grief and physical and verbal abuse. I felt it was important for these topics to be discussed throughout this book and Lio Min has beautifully written about them in this book. Lio Min is definitely an author to watch. Their writing is beautiful and kept me hooked throughout.

Overall, I would recommend Beating Heart Baby to anyone who is looking for a book that will make you laugh and cry within the space of a few lines. It is beautifully written and perfect for music fans. Give this one a read!
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This book was so good! I enjoyed the emotional journey Min takes us on throughout this book. Santi and Suwa just get each other and it isn’t until later that Santi realizes there’s a reason the connection they have is so strong.

This story was so relatable in many ways. At this point, and especially in the book community, we’ve built friendships over various social media platforms. The relationship between Santi and Suwa felt genuine and realistic. The shared love of music really shown through and the support among the group of friends was beautiful. I enjoyed seeing them all together on the pages. They really stood by each other and helped each other through the hard times.

The representation in this book was well done, the story compelling, and the pacing was exactly what I look for in YA contemporary. I definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a refreshing and relevant YA story about found family, friendship, first love, and heartbreak.
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I had to read the first chapter of this book twice because the first time, I felt like I didn’t understand what was going on. There are some music references and names that weren’t immediately familiar to me, so I wasn’t sure at first if they were characters or pop culture references. I ended up having to put the book aside for a couple of days for other reasons, but when I picked it up, I started reading again from the beginning. The second time through, I felt like I found my feet with the opening scene, and from there, I was hooked.

Both Santi and Suwa share their points of view in the story, but instead of alternating back and forth chapter by chapter, the first half of the book is Santi only. The second half is Suwa only. I don’t know if I’ve seen that done before, but I found that for this particular story, I really liked it.

I loved all the scenes of the marching band and how they learned to work together. And what becoming part of their team meant to Santi. I also loved the development of his relationship with Suwa and the way they got to know each other and grew together.

I also loved the performance and band scenes told from Suwa’s perspective. I felt like the story really captured the magic of performing and being part of a band without letting it get repetitive or distancing us from the characters.

On the whole, I’m incredibly glad I read this book. I think music fans, band nerds, and romance lovers will find a lot to love in BEATING HEART BABY. I think fans of Bill Konigsberg will enjoy it a lot.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Whoa this book is beautiful. A book about art and music and people. 

        The characters in this book ugh my heart. Santi is main character for the first part of the book after his Mom's tragic death he moves across the country with her best friend. Aya. He joins his new schools band where he plays the trumpet. Santi's band coach is a boy named Suwa after they get over a not so great first impression the boys become friends and then eventually lovers. Santi discovers a secret from both of their pasts and Suwa pushes him away. A year later we switch to Suwas point of view, both boys are more mature and ready to work toward their second chance. 
       Tropes:
Second Chance (and third?)
Online friends to real life friends to lovers to not speaking for a year to friends with benefits
(So basically a whole ass mess)

      I loved really everything about this book. I loved the writing style, the pacing and every character. They felt so complex and real. They're artists and musicians who make art about each other. It's second chances and secrets  there so much history you tell how much they really care about each other. This book felt like I was peeking into a persons life and honestly I wasn't sure if I should be there when I was reading and it was fantastic.
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I feel like no matter what I write in this review, there’s nothing I could say that would truly capture what Beating Heart Baby probably deserves. Lio Min’s debut novel was deeply emotional, hit a lot of feels, and was messy in all the good ways.

The novel is set up like an album, with each chapter as a track and having a Side A and Side B, which the choir child in me absolutely loved. The two sides are two POVs: Santi (Side A) and Suwa (Side B). Side A starts with Santi moving to Los Angeles with a fresh slate, except the city isn’t exactly a fresh slate because it reminds him of Memo, someone he met on an anime forum in middle school and who he’s dreamt of visiting for years after they form a close friendship over the course of three years. But he doesn’t get that chance, not after he accidentally leaks a song sent from them that catches the attention of music labels when it should never have.

Santi is quickly welcomed by most members of the marching band of his new high school, except for Suwa, a musical prodigy who doesn’t think Santi belongs in the band. The two of them form a tentative friendship that eventually becomes something more. I loved all of the characters: their friendship and support they have for each other, the memories they had before and continue to form – they were absolute gems and deserve the entire world. Personal favorites include Aya, Suya and Cap.

Side B starts roughly halfway through Beating Heart Baby, set approximately a year and a half after the end of Side A and after Santi and Suwa have a falling out. While I expected the POV change from a mile away, I was still very much disoriented with the POV change because I was just very much moving along with the story like I do when listening to a new album from my favorite artist, and then boom.

Looking back on it, though, I think I appreciate it a lot more. Both sides explore identity, betrayal and found family, but Side A explores first love and seeking forgiveness while Side B explores second chances and acceptance. I also really liked getting to see the characters grow from their high school years and going on their own paths but also coming back and connecting with each other at their roots in LA, and I feel like the book’s format really explores those that another format probably wouldn’t have flowed as well.

I do think the novel is quite atmospheric; I really felt like I was there for the vibes and flowing along with the story after being thrown into the story a little. I enjoyed Min’s writing style a lot, especially their descriptive imagery that sometimes packed an emotional punch.

Beating Heart Baby explores identity, found family, first loves and second chances; much like life, it has its flaws and gets deep at times, but I think this may be the beauty of the novel. Overall, Min left me pondering over the book for hours after I read the last sentence and will likely do so for a long time.
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This was such a great book. I loved the two main characters and they were so genuine. The writing was beautiful, emotional, and even had great pop culture references. 
As someone who knows nothing about marching band or anime, I really enjoyed how both of those topics were intertwined into the book! They really made up the characters and added to who they were. 
The one thing that I didn't like about the book was the time jump and switch of POV half way through. It was confusing and I felt as if a lot of potential story was ripped away. When we were brought into Suwa's POV, a lot of time was lost and it was very rushed at the end trying to explain everything. There were also SO many minor characters and I was always trying to remember who each one was. 
I recommend this book to everyone looking for a heart-breaking romance with characters who really grow throughout the whole story. Suwa and Santi's story will always stay with me.
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I enjoyed parts of this book very much, particularly the chapters from Santi's perspective. The adolescent romance, experience of early social media and internet friendships, and the adolescent relationship mistakes were all well written and rang so true. I thought the later chapters around Suwa's music career went on a little long and felt pretty off topic at times.
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This was just the book I needed at the time I read it. This was sweet, heartfelt and emotional. 

I loved the care given to the characters in this book. I loved the thoughtfulness and the respect. I’m not sure I have read a book that gave such respect and care to trans characters. It was truly something to read.

This was such a beautifully romantic read that completely touched my heart.
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When someone reached out and asked if I wanted to review this book, it only took one look at the cover for me to say yes. It’s gorgeous, a little bit messy, and absolutely perfect for this book, which completely ripped my heart out and made me so happy it did. It’s a love letter to music, to anime, to queer found families and to Los Angeles.

“Someone calls out, “What’s your name, Santiago Arboleda?”
I take a deep breath and answer:
“My name is Beating Heart Baby because I’ve got good taste in music, I’m a fake freshman, and, um, I’m single, if anyone wants to change that.”


Moving to Los Angeles is a new start for Santi, and hopefully one that means he won’t have to repeat any more years of high school. It’s bittersweet for him, too, as his online best friend Memo lives there, though he hasn’t talked to them since Santi messed up badly (story of his life) and Memo ghosted him. His guardian Aya grew up in LA and is still friends with the local high school band teacher, Cap. They arrange for him to get placed on the Sunshowers’ trumpet section, but while most everyone is welcoming, from the first day of band camp he can tell he’s not quite good enough. He’s fascinated with his biggest detractor, Suwa, who’s standoffish and downright rude. Plus, he keeps accidentally running into him – and sticking his foot in his mouth every time. But when Santi helps Suwa get through a panic attack before a show, things start warming up between the two. But Suwa’s a musical prodigy and after graduating at the end of the year, he hopes to go on tour. Does following their dreams mean they have to do it separately?

“All night, I repeat like a mantra in my head: Don’t forget don’t forget don’t forget. We all found each other. That was the truly impossible part. And now that I know what home feels like, I’m never letting go of the feeling.”


I cannot express in words how much I loved Santi and Suwa. Sure, they’re typical boneheaded teen guys who make terrible decisions occasionally, but they’re doing the best they can with what they have. Both come from fractured backgrounds. Santi never knew his dad and his Filipino mom died in a car crash, leaving him with Aya, a friend they’d been living with. Like him, Suwa’s mom has also passed, though in contrast to the warm and loving Aya, his dad is a pretty awful person. Suwa’s Korean and Japanese, something that his father’s Korean family hasn’t forgiven, nor can they forgive that he’s gay and trans. The Sunshowers, especially Cap, are truly a family for them, supportive in all the ways their families can’t be, and protection from the sometimes hostile world of high school.

The book is messy in all the ways teens in high school usually are. There’s first loves, lots of sneaking out at night, managing GPA and part-time jobs, not to mention basically learning how to be a human being. To me, there were two main themes to the story: dreams and forgiveness. In a way, in this story they’re inextricably linked. What would you do for your dreams, or the dreams of your friends? What if your dreams mean leaving those friends behind? Will they forgive you? Can you forgive yourself? What if you’re too scared to reach for your dreams? And of course, something dealing with high impact topics like dreams and forgiveness packs an emotional wallop. I cried a lot reading this book – angry tears, sad tears, happy tears – and thought endlessly about the characters when I wasn’t reading. There’s something so sweet and yearning about it that made me truly dread the inevitable bleak moment, but I also couldn’t put it down when that happened because I had to see how the author would make it right.

“That’s the only real rule I follow: Be good to those who open the door for you and those who knock on yours. And, oh I guess there are two, and forgive each other, and be open to forgiveness, when things get hard. Which, they will.”


The secondary characters are amazing and I loved Aya and Suwa’s sister Sayo. Santi and Suwa’s Sunshowers friend group are all wonderful, too, and oh so amazingly queer, but my favorite was Cap. He’s endlessly supportive, even to letting kids live with them when they get kicked out of their parents’ houses. He’s the loving parent that so many of the kids need and don’t have, and he’s what makes the Sunshowers exactly the family they need.

The writing is deeply descriptive with phrases that are just perfect. For instance, Santi describes seeing Suwa dressed up in costume as his brain being filled with popping bubble wrap, a phrase that was so perfectly descriptive that I gasped in delight. It’s also well-plotted and perfectly paced, though I’d say prety much anyone will see the bleak moment coming from a mile away. The book is also arranged creatively in a way that works perfectly: laid out like an old-school cassette tape, with various tracks (chapters) and an A-side, told from Santi’s point of view, and a B-side told from Suwa’s.

Look, I’m a white queer cis middle-aged women, which is almost as far as possible from the trans and gay teen characters of color as you can get, but I still felt like the book was speaking directly to me. I’m dating myself, but I was well out of high school by the time the “It Gets Better” project started. The message still resonates with me, though, as high school was rough for various reasons. Baby me sought out books with queer characters, completely oblivious as to why, continuously looking for one that didn’t end in tragedy (looking at you, Last Herald Mage). This book, with its message of found queer family and messy characters who don’t know what their lives will look like after high school? With seeing the characters a year later and, hey, they’re actually doing alright, chasing their dreams? I can’t express in words how much this would’ve meant to me then and how much it means to me now.

“What would it have been like to grow up in a more tender, accepting world? I spent so much of my life afraid of who I was. Even now, I’m still scared sometimes. But I was never as alone as I felt. No one’s ever as alone as they might feel.”


Overall, easily my favorite young adult book I’ve read this year, and definitely going on my top ten list. I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a pitch-perfect love song to found family, music and queerness.

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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I'm not convinced the author has ever been part of a high school marching band.

I only made it 25% into this book, in part because I couldn't handle having to stop frequently due to frustration at how the events of this novel would never be able to happen in real life. In a real marching band, especially one as prestigious as the one in this novel, every student in the band would have a dot on the field for their halftime show. Santi wouldn't have made it all the way to competition season without a dot for their show, especially given that the show for their competition would be the same show they perform at all of their games. Santi also wouldn't have been able to magically just know Chloe's dot for the show, even if she is the leader of his portion of the section for which Suwa and Lucia are co-section leaders. Also, any sane high school student simply would've dropped out of marching band if they weren't given a dot for the show or any hope of ever earning a dot for their show. Especially given that competitions are typically scheduled during the second half of the season, since bands typically don't learn the entire show at once, and instead add each of their songs and choreography as they master the preceding parts.

Beyond the fact that as a former color guard member, the inaccuracies as to how high school marching bands work frustrated me to no end, I also struggled a lot with Santi's narrative voice. Despite the fact that he's the narrator for the first half of the book, I felt like I got to know nothing about him beyond that he moved to LA for a fresh start and that he's repeating his junior year.

I skimmed through the rest of the novel after that point and the fact that the POV switches halfway through after a pivotal moment and jumps ahead in time means that the moment doesn't get a proper resolution which is particularly terrible because of the premise of the novel all leads to that midpoint. The premise of the novel ends at the midpoint and jumps forward in time to Suwa's success and time as a rising star, which isn't what I was looking for when I read the synopsis of this book. The Coda/Epilogue is also randomly in the third person despite the two halves of the book each being in first-person which threw me off as well while I skimmed.

Overall, I unfortunately really didn't enjoy this book, and if you're a former band or color guard kid picking it up for the marching band romance, you'll probably find yourself too frustrated to get immersed in the story.
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The cover of this book is what got me. The colors and the image felt like it conveyed so much. I liked the story as well. It was well written with a character you immediately feel for right from the beginning. I liked the flow of the story and how we learn more about the MC in a way that is easy to absorb and feels like we are right there as well. Won’t give away too much of the story but it definitely is compelling. Overall, I liked the story and would definitely recommend others check it out as well. 


Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for the ARC.
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I cannot stop thinking about this book! I couldn’t agree more with Mary H.K. Choi’s—one of my favourite authors—description of Beating Heart Baby as “dizzying, sexy, and utterly heartfelt.” I honestly couldn’t have said it better. I went in kind of expecting an LGBTQ high school love story and found myself holding in my hands something that was so much more (not that high school love stories can’t be special and aren’t important)!

Lio Min really took me on a journey with these characters emotionally as well as through their lives and experiences—I would say more on this but I’m wary of sharing anything close to a spoiler, so I’ll resist. Beating Heart Baby, true to its name made my heartbeat pick up and I swear that it also made my heart swell in my chest. This elder emo was very satisfied.

The love story Lio Min shared in Beating Heart Baby was my favourite kind of love story—just the right mix of adoration, pining, desire, and pain. I also felt a whole range of emotions for characters and occurrences outside of the romantic portion of the plot. Beating Heart Baby made me feel a lot.

There was also so much nostalgia here for me, as there will be for many other readers. Beating Heart Baby truly is not just a love story but also a “love letter to internet friendships, anime, and indie rock” as Choi so aptly put it. I also definitely wasn’t opposed to the mentions of kdramas as well as other dashes of Korean, Japanese, and other cultures. I loved Beating Heart Baby and wish that I could have spent more time with Suwa and Santi as well as their friends and family. Such a great read!
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Beating Heart Baby is a book about questions, secrets, and mysteries in our lives, in our pasts, that we carry with us. It's also about a love of music, friends that uplift us and are there for us, and the support of family. All of the emotional highs and low points are woven throughout Beating Heart Baby. It can be hard to make new friends, to be vulnerable with someone, but Beating Heart Baby examines that fear. Of being able to letting our family members into our lives - while also recognizing their limitations and what the relationship has to offer.

How we make and lose friends. How it feels to be seen, but also to hurt someone. I loved how the first part of the book was narrated by Santi and the other half by Suwa. The friendships formed, and developed in Beating Heart Baby are exquisite and heartfelt. And speaking of characters, Santi and Suwa are fantastic complex diasporic teens. Watching them open up to each other, for their relationship to bloom and develop, is one of the joys of Beating Heart Baby. This book, at time, felt emotionally raw, but also a warm hug personified.
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I don’t think I’m the right audience for this book. I didn’t care for the writing style, and while the premise is great, I’m not sure it’ll work for me.
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Beating Heart Baby by Lio Min

I absolutely love that a book like Beating Heart Baby exists. There will be so many people who feel seen and represented and love, love, love this book. It’s messy and raw and poignant and relays a depth of feeling that I love to see in a contemporary YA novel. Suwa and Santi feel like people I knew growing up. Even the side characters felt distinct and precisely important. As the mother of half-Filipino children, I always want more and more Filipino characters in media, especially one as earnest and loving as Santi. I love YA books that explore teenage sexuality in a way that’s safe and secure and affirming, especially for a trans character. There’s a lot to love. 
I didn’t really enjoy the book, but that doesn’t reflect much on the book itself. There aren’t a lot of ways I relate to the story or the characters — I’m not a person of color, I’m not trans, I’m not a musician. I don’t even know anything about anime, which I’m sure would have made parts of the story more meaningful. And while I have to be honest that Beating Heart Baby wasn’t for me, I don’t feel like it’s my right to be overly critical. There are just so many elements that I don’t feel I have say about, specifically because I don’t even know the ways that I might be missing crucial insight into the characters feelings or choices
There are some things I can objectively say didn’t work for me — the switch in perspective in the second half of the book, along with a big time jump, muddled the point of the plot. There was some miscommunication, which I don’t love. The opportunities in Suwa’s career felt too fantastic. But other things that I didn’t enjoy are probably what others will love. The perspectives and choices of Santi and Suwa will probably connect with folks in ways I can’t imagine. And I want more books like this to be written and published and successful, so how can I criticize it for my own personal taste and perspective? 
All in all I can say that while I didn’t enjoy the book, I know that other people will love so much about it. The characters make mistakes and hurt each other and grow and try to do better, and that’s all I think you can really ask for in a good book. Plus I mean, who doesn't appreciate a deep pull like early aughts Head Automatica? I've had the song stuck in my head for weeks now. Thanks.
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Two kids meet online and find understanding and connection with each other, but an accidental sharing of a deeply personal creation splits the two apart. 

Now years later Santi is the new kid again and afraid of be the other, again. Instead he finds home and love. 

Suwa wants to fully embrace who he is but is struggling with family rejection and fear of sharing his personal life with others. 

The two fall in love, but they aren’t the newly acquainted friends to lovers they’d assumed.
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