Guest ARC Review: Muted by Tami Charles

Posted February 15, 2021 by Lisa Mandina in promo post / 1 Comment

I was very excited when the publisher sent me an ARC of this book. It sounded really good. But I hadn’t realized it was a story in verse, and I have so much trouble getting through those. For some reason poetry takes me longer to read? So I thought how could I still give it the respect I felt was due since a publisher had been nice enough to send it to me without me even asking for it. I ended up letting a teacher at the school where I am a librarian read it, because I know that she reads and reviews on Goodreads. She loved it, and so I’m going to share her review here!

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Muted by Tami Charles
Published by Scholastic Press on February 2, 2021
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Source: the publisher
Format: ARC
Buy on AmazonBuy on Barnes & Noble

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.
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.

Cindy’s Review:

5 stars!

Definitely a book that will keep you up all night – riveted. But it’s written in free verse, so it’s a quick read. Charles builds the tension expertly – you know this story of three brown and black girls on the cusp of adulthood, yearning like so many young people to break into the music industry, is not going to turn out well after they become enraptured with the dreamy music giant Sean “Mercury” Ellis. One of the three girls, Shak, is quick to trust her instincts and her family, and bow out. But the other two, Dali and Denver (who have loved each other, in ways they sometimes hesitate to admit even to themselves, since middle school) shove their doubts, warning signs, and families aside so desperate to believe in the dream of becoming music stars. And so trusting.

As a mom an old woman I can immediately spot the red flags and want to scream at the girls to run. But there is so much more going on here. And of course that is what Charles is leading us through. “In Shohala nobody on Grammys or Billboards or VMAs.” Dalisay (Dali) Gomez lives with her Dominican mom in a trailer – desperate for money and so more likely to ignore red flags when she sees an opportunity to not only help lift her mother and Tía out of poverty, but perhaps help them earn their citizenship and the ability to return to the Dominican to visit family. Denver is a “curvy” girl – Haitian, moved North from Alabama, placed by the teacher in the back with the only other “students of color.” Her mother a doctor, her father a pilot, her sister away at college – she is desperate for attention, for validation, for recognition of her incredible talent. Their choir teacher calls their obvious talent “urban.” Ugh. Add to all of this a beautiful love story between Denver and Dali, but one they aren’t quite comfortable acknowledging. . . 

I don’t think I am spoiling too much by saying the story doesn’t end with Merc being the great savior he pretends to be, and the girls becoming the world renowned music stars they are assured they will be – I think that is obvious from the beginning. Again, at least to an old lady. I am wondering if the young women for whom this book is written will as quickly see the warning signs. I think that is part of Charles’ purpose in writing – to teach young girls that things that seem too good to be true too often are. I don’t want to spoil too much – but she paints the classic signs – isolation, control, flattery, gifts. Teaching young women what to look for, how to recognize abusers. I would be curious if it takes young girls longer to realize that this is not going to turn out well – the dream is so universal. The blurb says this is based on true events – I want to know more!

The story is told through Denver’s eyes – and so the use of verse feels appropriate. Denver is telling the story to her dad, who is a largely absent figure as a pilot and we later learn (spoiler) is going through a divorce with her mother. Because being a songwriter is such an integral part of her identity, the free verse feels like a very natural way to tell the story. I am not a huge fan of poetry – but this doesn’t feel like reading poetry. It feels more like reading a young girls’ diary, a young girl’s thoughts. This is how thoughts run. . . like free verse, not always like fully formed sentences and paragraphs. The free verse adds to the excitement and the tension, and the love between her and Dali. Not always a fan of verse, but in this case I don’t think the story would have been half as good told in traditional narrative form.

Highly recommend – well written, good character development, super fast paced, engaging, and such an important story about power imbalances. I grew very quickly to feel like these were real girls I grew very concerned about.

Meet the Reviewer:

From Goodreads:


Age 56, Female, Prairie Village, KS
Birthday: July 16, 1964
Activity: Joined in April 2012, last active this month
About Me: I teach US History, Cultural Anthropology and Spanish at a public, urban, college prep high school. I love what I do. I also enjoy long walks, baking, great conversation and a good stiff gin and tonic.

Thank you so much Cindy for reading and reviewing this book! Now I know that I was right to purchase a copy for the students at our school!

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