Bill Konigsberg recently published The Music of What Happens and has published a book that’ll make readers really think. This book comes after a list of already successful LGBT young adult books such as Openly Straight, Honestly Ben, Out of the Pocket and The Porcupine of Truth. Konigsberg has made a made a career out of LGBT activism and recently had an award named after him, which inspires others to continue activism through the YA genre.
The Music of What Happens follows Max and Jordan as they work in Jordan’s food truck for the summer. Max has to have a summer job and Jordan needs to pay off his family’s debt or else they’ll lose the house. When Jordan sees that Max is desperate for a job, he hires him to work on his food truck that seems to be falling apart. The two start a summer filled with insane Arizona heat, failed food truck recipes and tears.
Konigsberg gives the readers two characters that are really hurting and only seem to face more obstacles as the book goes on. He covers serious and sensitive topics such as rape, gambling, stereotypes and death. Because it explores such sensitive issues, it can easily cause mixed reviews but I need to praise Konigsberg for how he tackled these issues.
Firstly, it should be mentioned that Bill Konigsberg approached sexual assault with nothing but respect and integrity. He explored the emotions and reality of the situation without degrading or minimalizing the victim. When it comes to sexual assault and rape, obviously that is such a sensitive topic that any writer can overstep. But Konigsberg handled it so honestly and respectfully. He followed the journey of the victim and provided hope despite the doubt and pressures that they might face.
Secondly, we read the characters facing a lot of stereotypes and pressures. I think some might easily read this as enabling those stereotypes but, honestly, Konigsberg doesn’t just leave it there. Konigsberg is sure to not perpetuate harmful patterns or leave his characters to sit in boxes that others may have put them in. Max and Jordan face the stereotypes and fight to be seen as themselves. They fight for the respect they should be given as individuals.
Konigsberg also made a point to not let their sexuality be the main conflict in the book. Some might easily expect an LGBT book to only discuss a character’s sexuality, but sexuality and gender identity don’t define members of the LGBT community. The book really helped readers to see that and to understand the LGBT community faces life just like everyone else.
I have to admit, The Music of What Happens is not a comfortable read. But I don’t think that’s what Konigsberg was trying to write. He gives us two characters that find themselves in really broken and messy places and explores how they both tackle these issues and try to find what healing they can. Konigsberg is honest in that life can be chaotic and ugly but there is still beauty and hope in all the chaos.
PRR Writer Christopher Lee