Summary: Tune It Out
In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin.
Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back. From private school, to new friends, and an assistant director role in the school’s musical, Lou begins to experience what it means to be a child again. But will her responses to sensory stimuli get in the way of her shot at “normal” life?
I adored this book — and I loved Lou so much! First off, though, it is worth noting that this is not an #OwnVoices book on Sensory Processing Disorders. However, author Jamie Sumner (from her acknowledgements) has heavily researched the topic, and it is now left for those who have SPD to assess her depiction of (one person’s) experience of it. That said, her descriptions of Lou’s sharp responses to noises and other sensory experiences that we take for granted are vivid and will evoke empathy in readers.
Besides Lou’s SPD which is a major part of this book’s plot, Lou also deals with complex emotions about her mother. How can her mother truly love her if she keeps pushing her despite her adverse reaction to sensory stimuli? How can her mother love her if she didn’t ask for help from her (lawyer!) sister when she and Lou went hungry and slept in their truck on cold fall days? Readers will grapple with these tough questions as they come to know Lou and her mother.
For me, the best parts of this story were Lou’s new experiences at her fancy private school as well as the love she experiences from her uncle and her aunt, Ginger. Her theater buddies and the entire experience of being in a play also make for memorable reading. I love the way Sumner writes about music and singing — it’s easy to see how much she loves both things. Finally, Lou learns to cope with her SPD, not make it disappear, which is something important to teach with invisible conditions. Many people just learn to manage them better — and still live the best versions of their lives possible.
Overall: Tune It Out
I’m a huge fan of Sumner’s storytelling prowess and essentially read this book in one sitting. The scenes were highly believable, as were the ups and downs of Lou’s life. Tune It Out also explores difficult questions about family and finding oneself, particularly the courage to strike out on one’s own and choose one’s path. More importantly though, until more #OwnVoices stories about SPD become available, I think books like these are better than none at all. It is always worth noting that no one writer, not even #OwnVoice authors can capture the entire scope of any specific identity, whether it’s race or a disability. I highly recommend this book to fans of middle-grade books about music, friendship, and coming-of-age stories.
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*I received an electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions. That did not in any way affect my review.
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More Books Like Tune It Out
- Not If I Can Help It by Carolyn Mackler (SPD/anxiety/friendships)
- Focused by Alyson Gerber (ADHD)
- Forever, Or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter (Foster parenting)
Have you read this book or Sumner’s Roll With It? What are your favorite middle-grade books about Sensory Processing Disorders?