*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Rhythm & Muse by India Hill Brown is a predictable young adult romance novel giving us the perspective of the boy pining for the popular girl he has a crush on.
Darren likes Delia Dawson, the popular girl at his school known as Dillie who has her own podcast Dillie D in the Place to Be. He has Delia Daydreams, in which his best friend Justin always keeps shaking him out of. One day, Justin gets to spend time with his wannabe rapper cousin in a recording studio session. Darren tags along though he knows Justin’s cousin doesn’t have the rhythmic talent necessary to be a decent rapper. While in the studio, after listening to awful raps, Darren and Justin perk up to the cousin’s beats. Justin pushes Darren to sing on the beat for fun. Darren used to sing in the choir, but a mortifying experience made him drop out of choir and put his music dreams on hold. But he sings anyway – about Delia. Coincidentally, Delia’s podcast is running a competition for a new jingle. Somehow the track Darren recorded was submitted anonymously. As podcast listeners groove to Darren’s track, he can’t let anyone know he recorded it, especially Delia. He realizes they attend the same church, though he hadn’t been there in a while. He joins Delia on an all-night church sleepover where they bond over 90s R&B and their suspicions on the anonymous song that’s growing in popularity. While Darren gets closer to his dream girl, he second-guesses every move until Delia makes him more comfortable in the moment. When Delia announces the winning song of the competition, Darren knows it’s his chance to tell her the truth. But he still second-guesses telling her the truth, which endangers the relationship they are trying to build.
First, Darren’s obsession with Delia makes him a boring character. Yes, he sings, but the reason why he stopped is weak, and it is built up too much throughout the story to be that weak. The incident that has taken him away from music also has decreased his desire for college, in which he is working with a high school counselor. His second-guessing with Delia eliminates tension between the characters too quickly. He already has the girl the minute they click, which makes for a predictable ending. Other issues like his parents being married and in love and having simple dialogue adds to the boringness in the family of characters. Not saying we need a divorce, but the parents didn’t add enough tension to the situation. His love for 90s R&B could be a questionable decision since today’s teens are most likely listening to contemporary artists. Though it’s talked about how his parents taught him to love 90s R&B, it comes off as inauthentic with a music-obsessed teen not aligning himself more with music topping the charts now.
Overall, this young adult debut reads on the bland side with the unexciting characters and developments. It seems like a safe choice in YA literature as the genre continues to be battered by the banned books movement. The entire point of a romance novel is to reach the happily-ever-after, but when the main character’s personality is too tied to the person they want to be with and the tension falls apart too quickly, the story becomes less entertaining.