Today, it’s my stop on the blog tour organised by Book Terminal Tours for the brilliant Muted by Tami Charles. This novel told in verse promised a timely and powerful look at an incredibly relevant topic.
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.
TW: racism, homophobia, death, murder, rape, sexual assault, controlling behaviour, physical abuse, emotional abuse
Muted is a heavy read at times, but it’s told beautifully and in such a realistic way.
Novels told in verse, as I’ve said before, have this innate emotional power and Charles utilises it to perfection here. This is not a happy or pretty book, rather it delves into the horrific nature of abuse and manipulation within the music industry. It asks what the cost of celebrity culture and the danger of idolising figures beyond reasonable points. Charles doesn’t shy away from depicting abuse and manipulative relationships in minute detail. She both shows how Denver becomes enmeshed and embroiled in this spider’s web that she cannot escape from, while all the way through highlighting the red flags and dangerous signs. Charles very accurately conveyed their perspectives and how their naivety was exploited to nefarious ends.
Denver was a great voice to follow. The central trio’s initial friendship was so lovely to see and you could really tell that they brought the best out of each other. Their raw talent was entrancing and I think we can all relate to their star-struck encounters, though obviously it quickly takes a dark turn.
Reading Charles’ author’s note and knowing that she was partially drawing on her own experiences to delve into the shadowy, murkier side of the music industry was heart-breaking. There’s a whole uncomfortable discussion around artistic identity and being paid through exposure, rather than having your work properly credited to you and being valued for it. This obviously goes hand in hand with the toxic culture of control and abuse perpetuated throughout the story. It’s saddening to read Denver’s defense of her idol, even after she’s read expose articles detailing his past actions. It just shows how deeply sucked in she is, even her very instincts and thoughts are under his control.
Muted is a heart-wrenching, shocking and dark peek behind the scenes of the dodgier aspects of the music industry. It’s a carefully constructed mediation of celebrity culture and how people abuse their power and status in order to control and dominate others.
Thank you again to Book Terminal Tours for including me and make sure you check out the other wonderful posts on this blog tour here.