Hello everyone! Thank you for visiting my blog for the #MUTEDTour! This is my first time to work with the wonderful Colored Pages Bookish Tours, and don’t forget to follow the rest of the tour using this schedule.
About the Book
A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!
Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.
For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.
So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.
Until they’re not.
Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.
Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back.
On-page representation: Haitian-American (main character), wlw main and side character, Dominican-American (side character), Black-American (side character), Black-American author
Trigger and content warnings: abuse (physical and mental), alcohol use, body insecurities, body shaming, captivity, changing someone else’s name, death, divorce, drug use, eating disorders, fatphobia, gaslighting, grooming, gun violence, homophobia, kidnapping, manipulation, murder, pregnancy (from rape), rape
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Colored Pages Bookish Tours as part of my participation in their tour. This does not affect my honest review.
Muted is a very raw and hard-hitting exploration of one of the many dark sides of the music industry. This whole book is an emotional journey with Denver, and she has a powerful voice that does not deserve to be muted. It shows how the best and unique parts of a person are slowly stripped away to fit into a mold of Merc’s own making: lyrics, names, body image, and so on.
Denver’s experiences show how young people’s dreams of making it big or, at the very least, getting a foot in the door of the music industry can be exploited by powerful figures. It is so heartbreaking to see a strong characters like Denver and friends Shak and Dalisay brought low, shattered, and humiliated in service of Sean “Mercury” Ellis’ whims. The book details grooming techniques that have long been practiced: isolation from support systems, rebranding for “star power”, promises of big breaks, and rewards like luxury hotels and expensive gifts. Much of it deals with Denver falling into and finally breaking the spell Merc has on her, and with the events that build her determination to not let him get his hands on any girl ever again.
Tami Charles’ new book is an important read considering the #MeToo movement within the showbiz–specifically–the music industry. It brings to mind Ke$ha’s legal fight against Dr. Luke and the long history of sexual allegations and court cases against R. Kelly leading up to the #MuteRKelly trend and asks its readers to listen to stories that have been forcefully silenced to protect those in power. If this book is going to be used in the classroom or in other discussion circles, it would be best to include other examples of the deep-seated rape culture and grooming in Hollywood.
This book deals with pretty heavy topics, so please consider the trigger and content warning list carefully. The author has also included one at the beginning of the book, which I totally appreciate. The comprehensive list I’ve used here comes from Book Trigger Warnings site–a very helpful wiki that also covers new releases–plus some additions of my own that you might also find important. While reading, I also find it really helpful to keep digital sticky notes to remind myself that this is what grooming looks like. These prompts provide my mind and heart some distance to see the whole picture and to listen to warnings that Denver ignores. It is a book that sweeps one off their feet in a rush of rage and pain, and I think that grounding myself is key to not getting myself caught and broken by its power.
I love the way Tami Charles packs a punch into this short read; however, the poetry style is not something I personally like. Some of the imagery feel too on the nose, and some parts I think would work better if they were in prose instead of verse. I find it hard to tell apart the musical personas of Denver, Shak, and Dali, which is a bit sad because their individual contributions are what makes Angelic Voices a powerhouse.
I do see the appeal, though, and I know a lot of readers might vibe with this kind of style. I think I would appreciate this book more in audiobook format, where I can hear how the lines and rhythm are supposed to sound. I would also want to hear how the scratched out lyrics and song drafts would go, especially since this book is all about the music industry.
Overall, I think that this is an important book that everyone should read and discuss especially in relation to the ongoing discourse on grooming, rape, body shaming, and creative freedom. I recommend that this be a buddy read or a book club pick because it helps to process the difficult and sensitive topics with other people.
About the Author
Tami Charles is the New York Times bestselling author of All Because You Matter, and numerous books for children and young adults. Her middle grade debut, Like Vanessa, earned Top 10 spots on the Indies Introduce and Spring Kids’ Next lists, three starred reviews, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her latest titles include YA novel-in-verse, Muted, which was a Buzzfeed Top 40 pick for 2021, and lyrical picture book, My Day with the Panye. When Tami isn’t writing, she can be found presenting at schools both stateside and abroad.
That’s it for my stop today! Don’t forget to follow the rest of the tour using this schedule and the hashtag #MUTEDTour.