Part comedy, part grief narrative, In the Key of Dale is a disarming coming-of-age novel about a queer teen music prodigy who discovers pieces of himself in places he never thought to look.
Sixteen-year-old Dale Cardigan is a loner who’s managed to make himself completely invisible at his all-boys high school. He doesn’t fit with his classmates (whom he gives nicknames in his head), his stepbrother (whom nobody at school knows he’s related to), or even his mother (who never quite sees how gifted a musician Dale might be)—but they don’t fit with him, either. And he’s fine with that. To him, high school and home are stages to endure until his real life can finally begin.
Somewhat against his will, he befriends his classmate Rusty, who gets a rare look at Dale’s complex life outside school, but their friendship is made awkward when Dale is uncertain whether his growing attraction to Rusty is one-sided. Still, it’s to Rusty that Dale turns when he stumbles upon a family secret that shakes everything he thought he knew.
An epistolary novel written in the form of letters to his late father, In the Key of Dale is a beguiling, pitch-perfect book about growing up, fitting in, and finding a way out of grief and loneliness toward the melodic light of adulthood.
Ages 14 and up.
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