This might sound wrong but Between the Notes is the best kind of cliché that I’ve been dying to read for years.
Seriously, I love this book so much my friends (especially those aware of my literary tastes) are flummoxed. They know that the first person to nope their way out of a book because of clichés and tropes, is me, but with this book? This is the one of the few books I will read and reread until I get sick of it, and the only other similar book that I still adore is Robyn Sisman’s A Hollywood Ending.
Now, why is this book so good to me despite how obviously clichéd it is? First of all, the characters. Ivy Emerson is the most relatable YA main character that I’ve read in a long while. I love how she’s so ordinary and how she’s struggling to adjust to her new life. Even though she’s desperately trying to cling onto her rich girl image in school, she’s not spoilt. She doesn’t throw a tantrum or selfishly think of only herself despite having to give up her beloved piano, her phone number/service and her comfortable life. As a fellow pianist, I would’ve freaked at the thought of my piano being sold or taken away from me because like Ivy, it’s my therapist. I’m sure some of you would hate her for being shallow, but really, haven’t we been shallow at some points of our lives as well? I think it’s a flaw that fits her personality and the way she has been brought up—girl practically had her whole world pulled out from underneath her feet in a brief amount of time. Most importantly, she eventually realises that she’s been shallow as well and does try to become a better person too.
Moreover, the love interests—oh heavens, I hate love triangles with a burning passion, but the one in this book isn’t the kind that makes me want to tear my hair out. There are no cat-and-mouse games, no silly drama and melodramatic waterworks, and that’s truly the best kind of love triangle ever. What makes it better is that Ivy actually takes time to learn about her feelings, her desires and wants. She doesn’t blindly choose a boy because he’s the ‘better-choice’ by her peers’ standards, but she chooses someone who she knows well and who she knows will care for her and her family as much as she does.
So yeah, love interests James Wickerton and Lennie Lazarski. The ideal knight in shining armor on a white horse, and troublemaker of a bad boy. On the surface, they’re cliché love interests but when you learn more about their characters, you won’t be able to help loving them because they’re actually more complex than that. I can’t write much because I don’t want to spoil this book too much but I’ll repeat this: James and Lennie aren’t your typical love interests. Also, I enjoyed reading about Ivy’s family. There is no absent parent(s)/guardian(s) trope here—which is a huge relief—and Ivy’s siblings are so sweet.
As for the plot…well, it’s pretty obvious that Between the Notes has a clichéd plot line by now, but it works because of the characters, the writing, and the themes/messages. My heartstrings were pulled and you bet I cried at some parts. Though, I admit that I’m not particularly fond of Ivy being a spectacular singer since I feel that a lot of characters who are musically inclined seem to be brilliant vocalists. But eh, I guess I’ll just have to find a musically-inclined-but-not-awesome-vocalist character elsewhere.
All in all, Between the Notes is a brilliant debut novel about the value of family and friends, the importance of self-discovery, and realising that one should always learn about others before judging—and to not blindly believe in rumours and gossip. Sharon Huss Roat did a spectacular job with this, for sure.