cover image Beautiful Music

Beautiful Music

Michael Zadoorian. Akashic, $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-6177-5627-6

In this raucous bildungsroman from Zadoorian (The Leisure Seeker) set in Detroit in the early 1970s, Danny Yzemski turns to rock and roll as an escape from his freshman year of high school, family tragedy, and the fallout from the recent race riots. Danny is a nervous kid, happiest when building model cars and listening to the radio. When his father suddenly dies of a heart attack and his mom sinks into instability, Danny gets a job selling blueprints of cookie-cutter homes to keep the family afloat. At work, his coworkers blast rock—Led Zeppelin, MC5, Iggy Pop—and soon Danny falls in love with the music and decides to become a radio DJ. Danny’s endearing, sweet-yet-snarky voice drives the novel (“I have always been a model of good attendance and student citizenship. Then it occurs to me: where has it gotten me? I became bully bait”). As he delves deeper into rock culture, makes a friend, and confronts his mother’s (and his own) racial prejudices, his nervousness gives way to a kind of confidence. Zadoorian touches on white flight, iconic radio stations, and the racial history of Detroit, but remains rooted in Danny’s transition out of his shell. With its echoes of works by Nick Hornby and Stephen Chbosky, Zadoorian’s ebullient novel is full of energy, pain, growth, and great music. Agent: Jud Laghi, Jud Laghi Agency. (May)