Redgate deftly harmonizes a lighthearted plot with an exploration of privilege, identity, and personal agency.
Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American high school junior from a working-poor family who feels a bit out of place at her prestigious, arts-focused boarding school in upstate New York. Though the school’s diversity policy is bringing in more students from minority backgrounds, most of her classmates are still wealthy and white. After continued rejection for roles in the theater department, Jordan decides to try her hand at something new and joins one of the school’s legendary a cappella groups: a traditionally all-male one. To audition, Jordan adopts the male persona of Julian, and when Julian is accepted to fill a tenor spot with the group, Jordan must slip into the role of her life. As a first-person narrator, Jordan is often dryly sarcastic, but it is her lyrical prose that brings depth and empathy to a story that could otherwise be another needless riff on the cross-dressing trope. “It’s too simple to hate the people who have doorways where you have walls,” she reflects. Wearing Julian’s identity causes Jordan to question her assumptions regarding femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Jordan ultimately shatters her own self-limiting expectations and in doing so encourages readers to do likewise.
A heart song for all readers who have ever felt like strangers in their own skins. (Fiction. 13-18)