BEATING HEART BABY by Lio Min
Three years ago, Santi’s internet best friend, who Santi only knew as Memo, ghosted him and broke his heart, triggering a downward spiral. Now, at age 17, Santi moves to Los Angeles, ready for a fresh start and eager to fit in among his fellow marching band members. And, for the most part, everyone is welcoming. The only exception is his section leader, Suwa, a trans boy who finds Santi to be more annoying than charming. As Santi navigates his new city and new relationships, he’s haunted by his past. Which only gets worse when Santi and Suwa’s rivalry turns into a friendship and then quickly escalates into a mutual crush. The more time Santi spends with Suwa, the more he’s reminded of his broken friendship with Memo. But when Suwa gets the chance of a lifetime to finally take his place in the spotlight, the fate of their relationship is threatened, and Santi and Suwa must each reckon with their dreams and what their future might hold.
Formatted like a vinyl record, with a side A narrated by Santi and a side B narrated by Suwa, this emotional and lyrical debut is truly an ode to music. Santi and Suwa’s story of first love is tender and vulnerable, as Santi’s earnestness clashes and melds with Suwa’s introspectiveness. Min’s stunning prose is atmospheric and personal, drawing the reader into the all-encompassing beautiful mess of first love. Santi and Suwa are flawed, but incredibly lovable, and I was rooting for their success from the first page. This book left a lasting impression on me, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a book to do the same, as well as anyone who enjoyed FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender or THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper.
“Min’s debut is a luminous homage to music, art, and the power of found family.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Music is at the heart of this love letter to Los Angeles, anime, and art . . . A lyrical, rhythmic, and promising debut, this queer romance is a hit.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review