The second edition of Musical Youth by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse has been named as one of the top 100 Indie books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews in 2020. The starred review calls the book “overwhelmingly joyful” and ranks it “in the tradition of the best YA stories” with “convincing” characters that are “unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles.”
Kirkus Reviews is an American company founded in 1933 and focused on providing reviews that are high in integrity, honest, and accessible. According to their website, they review more than 8,000 books per year, and award starred reviews to “books of exceptional merit.” Musical Youth’s starred review will be featured as one of the Best Indie Books of 2020 in the December 15 issue of Kirkus Reviews magazine, in a special email newsletter on December 21, and on their website starting December 21.
On receiving the news of the award, author Joanne C. Hillhouse was particularly pleased that the reviewers saw the joy in the book. “I wanted to write a book that teens would want to pick up and read even if they were not required to read it for school.” Hillhouse has authored several other books for adults and children including Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure published by CaribbeanReads.
Musical Youth is a coming-of-age story set in Antigua. The main character, Zahara is brilliant on the guitar but struggles to fit in in school. She meets Shaka, also a musician, and a romance blossoms between them. By chronicling one summer in the lives of these characters and their friends, Musical Youth, touches on a number of issues that our Caribbean youth face such as class differences, colourism, and relationships-romantic, familial, and platonic. First published in 2014, Musical Youth is not new to recognition and praise. The book was the third-place winner in that year’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature by CODE, a Canadian NGO. In the first week of its release it ranked among Amazon’s hot new releases in YA Performing Arts Fiction, and it was mentioned in the February 2016 Essence Magazine.
Caribbean authors and educators have praised it repeatedly, as a “must-read” that is “absolutely brilliant” and “beautifully crafted” with “unforgettable themes, setting, and language.”
The first edition of Musical Youth was not submitted for a Kirkus review because traditional reviews typically require a book to be submitted at least three months before publication and the Burt Award prize required that the book be published within a very tight deadline. The second edition, released after the first run of books sold out, opened the door for an opportunity to submit the book for review.
Carol Mitchell of CaribbeanReads stated that “CaribbeanReads’ books have received very positive Kirkus Reviews in the past, but this is our first starred review, so we are very excited. To have Musical Youth chosen as one of the top 100 books by an Indie publisher this year is even more gratifying. It is a wonderful book and this is well-deserved.”
Musical Youth is taught in select schools in the Caribbean. It is available in bookstores and libraries throughout the Caribbean and online. More information can be found at caribbeanreads.com or by contacting the publisher at [email protected]