Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American junior at elite arts-focused boarding school Kensington-Blaine, but she doesn’t have much to show for it. Her first years were spent wrapped up in an intense relationship that ended badly, so she has no close friends to lean on when she fails, yet again, to get a callback for a musical. As a theater student on scholarship, Jordan feels extra pressure to prove to her parents that Kensington is worth it, but her low singing voice keeps her from landing traditional female musical roles. Dejected and isolated, Jordan notices an open call for a tenor in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s top all-boy a cappella group. Jordan is determined to find a place at school, even if it means months of deception and possibly extreme consequences. But life as Julian—the male alter ego she adopts for the Sharpshooters—is freeing in a way Jordan never expected, despite the complications.
Riley Redgate tackles big topics in her second novel, as Jordan unpacks the complicated interplay between her class, gender and friendships. Jordan’s insights on femininity and masculinity are effective. However, the exploration of her sexuality, which is supposedly fluid or bisexual, feels incomplete, especially since the romantic angle unfolds traditionally. With an amusing plot reminiscent of familiar teen movies, Noteworthy is a solid, realistic YA novel with enough new notes to entertain even avid readers.
This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.