Author: Tami Charles
Review: I didn’t know anything about Muted going into but I believe it is a novel written in verse about music and singing. I haven’t read many novels written in verse but the ones I have read I have really enjoyed. So, the novel open on December 23rd with someone returning home presumably our protagonist Denver after making it big in the music world. However, we cut back to May when Denver and her two best friends Dali and Shak are still performing in really small gigs and dream of singing for their idol, the King of R&B, Sean “Mercury” Ellis, and this wish might just come true and Mercury is performing on June 14th nearby. The girls manage to get tickets and leave school early in order to attend the concert where they manage to play one of their songs which Merc hears and likes. He ends up giving the trio VIP seats for the concert and invites them backstage afterwards but I can already sense something wrong with him as he takes Dali to get high even though these girls are only 17/18. However, he does get them to play more of their music and asks them to come to his recording studio which the girls are overjoyed about as this might be the big break they have been dreaming about.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, the girls are trying to deal with the aftermath of recording with Merc for the first time and don’t even seem too bothered by the fact he has changed both the name of their group and the sound of the music they were making because they believe that he knows better than them being famous. However, Shak doesn’t feel comfortable with the whole arrangement and it is interfering with the rest of her life as she is the only one in the group that has any hope of moving onto college even though Dali and Denver’s families encourage them to put more work into their studies but they have their hearts set on music as their future. The next time Merc asks them to come to recording studio Shak refuses to go because she doesn’t really like Merc and she has other things planned so Dali and Denver go without her and we can see that Merc has seemingly removed Shak from the group effortlessly but the other girls aren’t aware of it yet as their phones are taken from them when they arrive. They also haven’t included any authority figure yet which is dangerous since Merc has all the power in their arrangement and he could take what he wants from them without paying them fair compensation but the girls don’t even think about this as they blindly trust Merc which seems like it might cause a lot of problems later on.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Shak isn’t removed from the group like I thought but she does claim that Merc asked her for a picture of her in a bikini which meant she wasn’t comfortable around him and when her friends aren’t responding to her messages she panics and thinks something has happened to them and informs their parents. Back with Denver and Dali, they have spent the whole night getting wasted with Merc and when Denver awakens in a bed, she doesn’t recognise in only her underwear with blood on the sheets she freaks out thinking she has been date raped. However, Dali and Merc explain that she was out of it and got her period which is why they stripped her and put her to bed which Denver believes for two reasons, 1) Dali is telling her the same story and she is low key in love with her best friend and 2) all the evidence points in that direction but Denver can’t shake the feeling that isn’t the whole story but she doesn’t remember much from the night before. Upon returning home they find Shak has told their parents all about Merc and what they have been doing before throwing in the towel for good which hurts and infuriates Dali and Denver as they realise that Shak might not have had her heart and soul in the group the same way they did and that this was inevitable but it hurts for them to try and move on from it. Their parents want to meet Merc and they arrange a meeting where they go over contracts, Dali’s mother signs basically straight away but Denver’s mother wants to run it past her husband and their lawyer first but Merc reminds Denver to make sure her mother signs the contract. We also get the feeling that something is going on with Denver’s father, I personally believe he is having an affair as a pilot it would be easy to explain away being absent for a long period of time and Denver is seeing this as he leaves in the middle of the night even when she needs him.
As we approach the halfway mark in the story, I was enjoying Muted but nothing remarkable has happened yet. We see Denver’s panic as her parents are refusing to sign the contract meaning that Dali is the only one in the studio. This does make Denver jealous but it is more than that as she wants to be there with Dali and ultimately forges her parents signatures in order to keep making music with her best friend and Merc. As time passes the girls are going to have to return for their final year of school meaning they won’t be able to record often especially with Merc touring but he makes the offer that the girls can come with him and they accept. In order to make this happen Merc gets them first class plane tickets in addition to giving both girls $1,500. Dali leaves her money behind for her mother but Denver keeps her as her family doesn’t really need it. However, they use Denver’s sister Gwen as an alibi for them being able to leave the state without their parents getting suspicious and it only works because Denver has kept Gwen’s secret about having an abortion from a previous relationship with a white boy which her parents especially their father wouldn’t have allowed. As the pair take off for a musical adventure with Merc, Denver reflects on a kiss she shared with Dali and their promise never to speak of it and also realises that her feelings for Dali have only continued to grow. The pair also try to make amends with Shak but when she doesn’t talk to them only sending them articles about Merc’s supposedly illicit behaviour Dali and Denver are done with her. I am not sure where I stand on Merc just yet as he does come across a little creepy at times but we don’t have any hard evidence that he has done anything wrong and the article hasn’t been written by a reliable source either.
As we cross into the second half of the novel, I was enjoying the story and getting to know the girls but I just really wanted something to happen as the whole plot has just been getting to know these girls and them making their big break into the music industry but there hasn’t been anything external driving the plot and the internal struggles are minor and often glossed over so I was beginning to get a little bored. As the girl settle into their new place in Merc’s home, we see things beginning to get difficult as Merc immediately isolates Dali and Denver from each other. In doing this he convinces Denver to lose a lot of weight even though she is happy with her body and putting her through a punishing exercise routine and diet which aren’t having a great affect on Denver’s mental health. However, when Denver’s parents call the police saying Merc had kidnapped her, she tells the police that she wants to be there and given her age there isn’t anything the police can do if Denver doesn’t want to return home. The girls also learn the other girl that Merc supposedly kidnapped is Marissa, one of Merc’s management team but even she seems slightly suspicious in this new light which is something Denver is coming to realise. Things only get worse when Merc tells them they are going to start touring for real but Denver is going to be the only one singing despite whatever Merc promises Dali which is driving a wedge between them which Denver doesn’t like. We also see a different side to Merc here as when Denver demands that Dali sings with her, he grabs her hard enough to hurt and while he promises that everything just got out of hand, I am beginning to see some manipulating behaviours here and I don’t like it one bit.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, we see the relationship between Denver and Dali fall apart completely as Dali supposedly leaves, meaning Denver is now dealing with Merc alone and all of his attention is on her which isn’t something she is sure she wants. Despite this, Denver has the nagging feeling that Dali didn’t just leave as she is sure her friend wouldn’t do that and when she steals some of the tapes Merc is always carrying around with him this is basically confirmed as Marissa attacks Denver. Marissa knows that Denver has taken something that belongs to Merc and wants it back but she basically reveals that she never truly trusted Denver as she is a smart girl which says to me that these people have something to hide. Merc tries to distract Denver from her goals by giving her things like a puppy and then in crueller ways by saying one of her songs is his and making almost all of the profit of it but we see Denver fighting back against him with everything she has but she refuses to leave yet as she instinctively knows that there is something bigger going on when she sees a girl locked in one of the sheds and I was slowly beginning to piece together who Merc was and what he was actually doing. Throughout all of this we get messages, internet posts and articles from the outside that Denver doesn’t have access to and this lets us know how Merc’s public image is changing and everything he is trying to do in order to maintain that image.
As we cross into the final section of the novel, Denver makes the brutal discovery of what Merc has actually been doing and that her best friend has been locked up like a prisoner as she is pregnant. Denver immediately begins putting a plan together in order for her and Dali to go home but things don’t go according to plan as this girl are only like 18 and it comes down to a showdown between Denver and Merc which Denver loses but being the smart girl she is, she planned in advance possibly suspecting that something like this might happen which ultimately leads to Merc’s downfall. The ending section of this novel completely destroyed me as we believe the story is going in one direction and that Denver and Dali are going to get their happily ever afters but it rarely works out that way in real life which we see to amazing affect. I honestly have to say that the book earnt its rating in the last 15% of the novel otherwise it would have been only 3 stars. I highly recommend you read this book and power through the extremely slow first half just for the conclusion as it made the reading experience for me and I can’t wait to read more from Tami Charles in the future especially if they follow a similar style as Muted.
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I received this copy for review consideration from Terminal Tours.