ARC Review: Old Music for New People by David Biddle


It’s the summer of 2013 and 15-year-old Ivy Scattergood has traveled with her family to their vacation home in Maine. The Scattergoods are a blended, mixed-race family with old Philadelphia area Quaker roots. Ivy loves the Red Sox, one single music group at a time (this year it’s Johnnyswim), helping make dinner every night, and this guy in Maine named Bailey Cooper. Ivy also has no interest in makeup, heels, dresses, and most of the basic assumptions people make about what it means to be a teenage girl — but don’t call her a Tomboy, at least to her face. Then her cousin Robert from San Diego (also 15) comes to visit — as a beautiful, glamorous young woman who has re-named herself Rita Gomez.Thus begins a summer where Ivy’s worldview will expand, where she will discover new layers to herself and those around her, and where stepping forward into the unknown will emerge as a bold adventure.

My thoughts

Being a teenager is a confusing time between what your own hormones are doing, what society tells you that they should be doing, and now the demanding voices of other people’s hormones saying “hear me, see me, accept me”. When you look in the mirror and most of the time struggle with what you are seeing there, young people are now publicly having to deal with other people’s struggle too and be accepting of it even if they do not know how they feel.

David Biddle displays this struggle within the Scattergood family when cousin Rita visits for the summer and puts everyone’s ideas of identity, adulthood, maturity, and their own biases on the table to talk about in Old Music for New People. It is an honest conversation about the struggle to understand someone’s transgender journey. Biddle starts this road from Quaker ideals as the family has been raised in the Quaker belief system. Their knowledge of the rainbow community is from television and not their reality. Now Ivy’s mother is a doctor so her knowledge might be more expansive, but still Rita’s appearance was a shock to her too.

Biddle incorporates transphobia from Rita’s own parents and the potential of their parents divorcing (ssshhh Rita doesn’t know). There is also the “normal” family angst between siblings that taints decisions made. Let’s not forget that Ivy and Rita are both 15-year-old girls and there can be problems there (okay, yes there is (laugh)). 

There is a technique that Biddle utilizes that I do not care for and that is foreshadowing of events to come. It would be different if at the beginning of the book Ivy stated something to the effect that she was telling you what happened over the summer, then the conversational foreshadowing would work. It doesn’t in this case, for me, it is just annoying.

I love the conversation in Old Music for New People. It is difficult, uncomfortable, and awkward. I have always thought that I have been a full supporter of everyone in the rainbow, but some of the questions asked I thought, “huh, good question.” I have never thought to ask anyone these questions and have just blindly accepted whatever people tell me about themselves without asking, “how, why, where, when…”. Biddle asks these questions and it makes me squirm reading the questions and hearing the answers. The funny thing is these answers have been here for hundreds of years and only now are people starting to listen…kind of like Old Music for New People.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

 “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

Further Details:

Publisher: The Story Plant, 9781611883183, December 7th 2021

Pages: 352

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s