I don’t usually read verse novels. I am not the biggest fan of poetry, but it is important to leave your comfort zone and that’s why I decided to take a chance on this one. Muted reminded me of Elizabeth Acevedo’s work in that the story was gripping and fast-paced, constantly making me wonder what the main character’s next move might be. Muted is the poignant story of Denver, a seventeen-year-old girl who loves music and will do anything to escape her hometown. When she and her two best friends, Shak and Dali, get discovered by one of the biggest artists alive—Sean ‘Mercury’ Ellis—they feel like this is it. This is their shot at stardom. Naturally, things do not go to plan and their dreams quickly turn into a nightmare.

This book took me by surprise. I won’t lie to you: I did not expect to love it as much as I did. I expected a simple story about a young girl getting manipulated by one of the biggest tycoons in the music industry. I got so much more than that. Muted is a universal exploration of how easy it is to manipulate and be manipulated in this world. Tami Charles shows us exactly how powerful people use the media to their advantage. Merc’, the music mogul and abusive antagonist, always finds a way to spin the story his way. Muted is the type of book that makes you wonder if the stories we read in the media are at all true. In reading, I learned that once you have enough money and power in the music industry, people won’t have the courage to go against what you say, especially if you are a charismatic cisgender man like Merc’. In the book, society refuses to believe he could have done any harm to these teenage girls simply because he is a musician with success to his name.

Muted is the type of book that makes you wonder if the stories we read in the media are at all true.”

We learn these hard truths from Denver’s perspective. Her voice is powerful and relatable. I loved being in her head, seeing what motivated her to keep chasing her dreams against the wishes of her own family. Her sisterhood with Shak and Dali was particularly precious to me because I don’t see enough books with strong female friendships in the mainstream. Denver was never truly alone in anything she went through. We often pit girls against each other for no reason—this is exactly how Merc tried to get his way with them, but Denver, Dali, and Shak’s bond proved too strong for him. When one of them did not agree with the other they did not feel resentful, and always simply wanted the best for one another.

From her family upbringing to her desire to be different from what they expect of her, I couldn’t help but see myself in Denver. As a child of immigrants, the family’s conversations around education and the future felt familiar to me. And while I am the oldest, unlike Denver, I also sometimes feel that I am not exactly how my parents would like me to be. The fight to be who you are—not who your parents want you to be—shapes Muted. But, ultimately, Denver pursuing her dreams and finally do something for herself leads her to the wrong person.

“Lyrical and powerful, Muted offers a unique critique of the music industry’s dark side.”

Reading this book felt like watching a car crash from beginning to end. You know what’s going to happen. You know Merc’ intentions. You roll your eyes every time Denver swoons at anything and everything he says. Why does he keep approaching vulnerable young girls? Why is he imposing house rules like no cellphones? Why is he offering these girls gifts and money? As you grow older, you realise that nothing in this life is free. Knowing the music industry and everything that happens in it, it is clear Charles is drawing on real happenings. But then you remember that despite you knowing what’s happening, this young girl doesn’t.

Every single word left a mark on me and made me feel fully immersed in Denver’s world. Lyrical and powerful, Muted offers a unique critique of the music industry’s dark side.

By Saoudia

SAOUDIA is a 22-year-old Black French-Canadian book blogger living in Montreal. She launched her blog, With Love, Saoudia in 2019, and when she’s not reviewing books, you can find her reading, writing, studying, or watching shows on Netflix. Her biggest dream is to write and publish a novel. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

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. You can find her on Twitter and on her website.

Tami Charles’ Muted explores the music industry’s dark sideMuted by Tami Charles
Published by Scholastic on 2 February 2021
Genres: Coming-of-age, Novel-in-verse, YA, African American
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Mahogany Books
Goodreads
four-stars

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.