Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
It's almost the end of senior year, and Elizabeth Williams is looking forward to a new life, to claiming his true identity, and finally living as who he really is: Gabe. He's out to his family (to say that they haven't been particularly supportive is a huge understatement) and to his best friend, Paige. But when his late-night radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, develops a cult following, he gets outed sooner than he'd planned.
This one's great: The practical physical details of Gabe's transition are discussed frankly and oftentimes with a good dose of humor, and while Cronn-Mills relays a lot of information, it all feels organic, rather than didactic; it's always clear that this is Gabe's personal journey, and not meant to represent the journey of every other transgender person out there; the arc of Gabe and Paige's friendship-that-might-be-morphing-into-something-more is sensitive to both of them, and the underlying conflict is more about the shift from best friends to possible couple, rather than about Gabe's identity as a trans man; Gabe's eventual reconciliation with each member of his family is nicely done, as well, in that he reconnects in a different way with each person. Also: Loads of musical references, his cross-generational friendship with his music-loving neighbor, and a celebration of late-night music magic. Bonus points for the Author's Note at the end, which included both a glossary and a list of LBGTQ resources.
(My only complaint: In terms of plotting, there are a pretty unbelievable number of elements that get wrapped up in what seems like four-and-a-half minutes at the end. But everything else was so great that I gave it a pass.)
How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford
Have I really never written about this one? I feel like I need to re-read it to write a description that does it justice. I loved it for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones was that it's a story about a platonic-yet-passionate-and-intense friendship, not a romance.
Anyway, the radio connection: The main characters, Robot Girl Beatrice and Ghost Boy Jonah, are devotees of a late night radio show, Night Light, that caters to all of the lonely souls in the Baltimore area.
Oh, wow, I SOOOOOOO want to re-read it now.
Related: YA Pair: Female Assassins.
Related: YA Pair: Dad's a Latin teacher.