When The Beat Drops – Review

“This beat is everywhere, percussion lines woven together in colorful tonal textile before unraveling just enough to keep the crowd on their toes, hints of distorted cello and bright, pure vibra-phone darting in and out of the beats like playful fireflies.”

Mira has always heard the music in the world. Where the world hears noise, Mira hears rhythm, and uses her experience as inspiration in her jazz. Her entire focus is on getting into a music school focusing on jazz with her two best friends. But already, her plans are getting derailed.

First, her parents missed the scholarship deadline for the music camp she always attends. For the first time, she will be home, all summer, working in her parents struggling gym, being ignored while her superstar sister gets all their attention. Except her sister comes back from college different. She doesn’t ignore Mira, but instead invites her to hang out with her and her friend, Yelena. And they go to the last place in the world she ever expected to find herself. A warehouse party.

There she meets Shay, a young DJ willing to teach her all about making a different type of music. And Derek. A music promoter who promises that he can change her world. Before she knows it, Mira is putting jazz on the back burner as she falls into the world of music festivals and dance floors. But the magic of summer can’t last forever. Tragedy forces Mira to take a closer look at everything around her. Music can bring people together. But can it also tear them apart?

“This isn’t the summer I wanted, but maybe, in its own way, it’s just as good.”

If you love music, you will love this book. Even though the plot focuses a lot on jazz and electric music, the way Hecker describes music is transcendent. She pulls you into the magic of music through Mira and I was constantly stopping to reread the passages describing the way Mira experiences the world.

I love the idea that music is everywhere, in the steps we take, the jingle of keys in our pocket, the swish of fabric, or of cars driving by. Even more is that music is how Mira explains even her own emotions.

“Hearing this album now reminds me of Derek, of the way his eyes hit a bass chord inside me so low I never knew it was there.”

I don’t know much about music. But I knew exactly the feeling described. I love finding authors and books that are able to take mainstream emotions and find new ways to define them, to describe them, and ultimately bring them to life in a new way for the reader. If there’s one thing that makes this book stand out, it’s this lyrical style of writing.

This is a hard hitting YA novel. It’s beautifully written, but there are some tough subjects tackled. The idea of missing out on what you love, facing failure, first love, and family conflict are examined and explored in meaningful ways. But Hecker also looks at drug use, losing your virginity, and the danger of doing what we think people expect of us. It’s about the complicated relationships we have with our best friends and our families. Most importantly, it’s about finding ourselves in all that chaos.

“Music can’t make this pain go away, but maybe it can turn it into something different, something beautiful.”

Because of the content, I would say this is on the older spectrum of YA. And parents or teachers should read, because it is a fantastic opportunity to discuss some heavy and deep issues that many teens will face, or have faced. It is a very real-life book that doesn’t sugar coat or gloss over or glamorize these issues. Hecker presents them in a believable  context that makes it feel incredibly realistic.

Hecker also doesn’t wrap things up in a nice bow. There is conflict, and confusion, and even tragedy. Mira does find who she is, but it isn’t exactly what she thought it would be, or even what the reader thought it would be. I really liked that. Because life rarely turns out the way we plan. It’s how we adjust to those changes that defines our future. And I think Hecker nailed that message dead on!

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of good YA. That it sends a good message to the reader without coming across as preachy, judgmental, or cliche. When The Beat Drops is a heartfelt, piercing, emotional come of age story. This isn’t about finding love, but finding yourself. Figuring out who you are, and then deciding who to include in your life and in what way. About letting go of your own prejudices, biases, and preconceived notions. It’s about friendship and sisterhood and I loved it.

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy as part of their #readbythesea2018 #yasummerreads blog tour!

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