quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green




Title: Beating Heart Baby
Author: Lio Min
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook; 352 pgs
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
PurchaseAmazon - B&N - BAM! - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  The links above are non-affiliate links; I do not earn anything from them.

The Summary

Lio Min’s Beating Heart Baby is an “achingly romantic” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) love letter to internet friendships, anime, and indie rock.

When artistic and sensitive Santi arrives at his new high school, everyone in the wildly talented marching band welcomes him with open arms. Everyone except for the prickly, proud musical prodigy Suwa, who doesn’t think Santi has what it takes to be in the band.

But Santi and Suwa share painful pasts, and when they open up to each other, a tentative friendship begins. And soon, that friendship turns into something more. . . .

Will their fresh start rip at the seams as Suwa seeks out a solo spotlight, and both boys come to terms with what it'll take, and what they'll have to let go, to realize their dreams?

Praise for Beating Heart Baby:
"This book is alive with ache, grief, hunger, love, pain and awe. . . . It should be read for the reasons all good books should be read: because it’s beautiful and moving, nuanced and humane. Most of all, because it’s fun." —Los Angeles Times

"Min's exploration of coming out and owning your story as an artist is particularly exhilarating and nuanced. . . It's an epic tale of queer validation, filtered through the light of the California sun and Sailor Moon, and an essential read for anyone searching for a blueprint of their soul." —BookPage, starred review

"A lyrical, rhythmic, and promising debut, this queer romance is a hit." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A luminous homage to music, art, and the power of found family. . . This achingly romantic novel features racially diverse and variously queer characters, each of whom is given ample space to develop." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"At times incredibly romantic, at times wildly devastating, this debut about identity, belonging, kinship, fandom, and starting over is one of the best books you'll read all year." —BuzzFeed (Best Book of the Summer)

"There’s a magic to this book I just can’t put into words. . . . If you like angst, pining, anime, music and found family, Beating Heart Baby is the book that will make you cheer, weep, laugh, and pine for your own internet friendship transforming into a happily ever!" —TheNerdDaily.com

"Blistering, deeply emo, and shimmering with the messiness of intimacy, Beating Heart Baby is a dizzying, occasionally infuriating, gleefully sexy, and utterly heartfelt exploration of identity, culture, and finding home within your art and in yourself. Brimming with music, profoundly specific internet, and the magic of cooked food with chosen family, Lio Min’s debut is as much a salve as it is nourishment." —Mary H. K. Choi, author of Yolk

"A stunning heartbreak of a novel that will mean so much to so many. I couldn’t put it down—following the always tender and often romantic journeys of these beautiful boys. A story about how love can shape you and open up the entire world. Lio Min is a superstar to watch." —Maurene Goo, author of Somewhere Only We Know

My Review

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. 

Final Rating

About the Author

photo by Bao Ngo

Lio Min has listened to, played and performed, and written about music for most of their life. Their debut novel Beating Heart Baby is about boys, bands, and Los Angeles. They've profiled and interviewed acts including Japanese Breakfast, Rina Sawayama, MUNA, Caroline Polachek, Christine and the Queens, Raveena, Tei Shi, Speedy Ortiz, and Mitski.

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