Title: Rhythm & Muse
Author: India Hill Brown
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Review Copy: ARC by publisher
Availability: Available now
Summary: Cinderella meets Cyrano in this pitch-perfect YA rom-com that is a celebration of Black joy, first crushes, and putting your heart on the line for love. Darren Johnson lives in his head. There, he can pine for his crush—total dream girl, Delia Dawson—in peace, away from the unsolicited opinions of his talkative family and showboat friends. When Delia announces a theme song contest for her popular podcast, Dillie D in the Place to Be, Darren’s friends—convinced he’ll never make a move—submit one of his secret side projects for consideration. After the anonymous romantic verse catches Dillie’s ear, she sets out to uncover the mystery singer behind the track. Now Darren must Is he ready to step out of the shadows and take the lead in his own life?
Review: Rhythm & Muse was a fun book that gripped me from the beginning. Darren is a “sweet cinnamon roll” of a guy (if I’m using that term correctly) and it was easy to fall in love with him. This is definitely a story that shows us that we often do not see our greatness the way others see it in us and that sometimes we stand in our own way. And of course, a sweet sweet romance.
One of the things that drew me to Darren was how much he was in his head. He tended to over-think everything and was very cautious before making decisions. And being in his head we fully understand that this habit of his comes from a place of self-consciousness and a bit of low self-esteem. Like many of us, he just couldn’t see the person others saw in him. He was a good kid, a giving friend, good natured and very likable, which he knew but didn’t fully believe it. That is what made him so relatable and his emotional journey so touching. Because his friends pushed him by submitting his song to the contest, the song ends up blowing up and Darren is able to see how people respond to his music and it slowly builds up his confidence. He learns what people think of him without knowing that it is him so he soon comes to understand the light that he has and the impact his friendship has on others. I actually loved his friendship with his boys because they were so honest with each other and very encouraging with each other. They pushed each other to be better but still messed with each other like friends do. It was very clear that Darren’s friends were only looking out for his best interests and wanted only the best for their friend.
Because Darren is such a sweet guy, the romance is also slow burning and sweet. Darren and Delia form a sweet friendship and their loves blossoms from it. It’s clear that Delia likes Darren but he just doesn’t see it. They have so many sweet swoon worthy moments where Darren is being his true authentic self as he relates to her. In his head, he comes up with large romantic gestures that completely fall apart in her presence and it’s his stumbling through his course correction that actually makes the gesture much more moving. As the story goes, you can’t help but root for them to be together, just like their friends do.
I really needed a feel good love story and Rhythm & Muse really hit in the right places. This is a fun summer read of friendship, romance, and finding one’s self worth.