Beating Heart Baby / Lio Min / Book Review

The last place Santi expects to feel at home is his new school's marching band. But the Sunshowers are more than just music geeks. They're a family, and they're fiercely protective of all their members, whatever shape or sexual identity they might come with. Santi finds himself welcomed with open arms by everyone. Everyone but Suwa.

Suwa is a musical prodigy and not just where marching band is concerned. He's got his eyes set on a music career, and he knows he's destined for the big leagues. But Suwa's past haunts him more than he's willing to show. 

When shared interests and painful past memories bring these boys together, they start a tentative friendship that morphs into something more. But when Suwa's musical talent sets him centerstage, they'll both have to come to terms with what haunts them--including how they haunt each other. 


This book surprised me. I wasn't expecting to like it much at all. A marching band romance just wasn't my mood when I started it. The official synopsis here doesn't do this book justice, though. It's not about the marching band. It's not about the romance. Overall, it's a coming-of-age story wrapped up in identity, music, and first love. 


  • Normalized Pronouns: When Santi first meets his marching bandmates, the nametags all include pronouns. This is something that has been occurring more and more in real life, and it is nice to see the trend reflected in fiction--especially in a group where it really makes a difference. This is a casual way to introduce pronouns, even when most people use familiar and expected pronouns, and that casual inclusion is just as it should be, in life and in fiction. 
  • Trans Rep: This book... doesn't make a big deal out of being trans. Sure, there are problems that arise, because there always are (and unfortunately always will be). But these problems are secondary to the plot, which isn't about being trans, coming out as trans, or living despite the adversity of trans existence. This factor causes problems, but it doesn't overwhelm the plot Because this is a part of the characters but not the point or the purpose of their story. 
  • Lowkey Activity: I was concerned that this book would be very marching-band heavy. Why did I pick a marching band book if I was so concerned? I cannot explain it. Of course, I would be concerned about a book that mentioned knitting in the blurb or skydiving... any niche interest that can be too specific for my tastes if and when that interest overwhelms the plot. I'm happy to say that here, the marching band served  as a sort of venue, a locale where music lovers could congregate--not all of them passionate about marching bands. This plot doesn't get consumed by instrument rivalry and state competitions. That's just something going on in the background. 


  • Weird Pace: This book is a lot of things, but it is, perhaps primarily, a romance. And it starts very, very slow for a romance. There's a lot of build-up, but it doesn't really build to somewhere. The romance, once it commences, is very lowkey, not hot-and-heavy like many "slow burns" are. When this relationship grows rocky, we jump quite a bit into the future and sort things out from there. The pacing here isn't bad, necessarily. It's just odd. It doesn't feel quite right. 
  • Contemporary: This book is ultra contemporary. That is, it is steeped in a moment that almost feels outdated already. The references are too in-the-moment, they're too recent when they could easily have been more vague (and therefore given this book some staying power). Because it's so contemporary, this book feels like it won't last. It won't be as good tomorrow as it is today. 
  • Drama by Omission: This is a personal peeve of mine, but it is a peeve nonetheless. I hate when tension is added to a story--most usually a romance--because of some omission, something hidden or kept secret between the two. This is usually a piece of fairly mundane information that would have caused no drama except for the fact that it was hidden, and this drama-by-omission rears its ugly head about halfway through this book. One party discovers some information and decides, instead of immediately sharing it, to keep it to themselves. When the omission is discovered, drama ensues, propelling the rest of the plot. And I just don't like this plot device one bit. 



Fans of Ryan La Sala's Be Dazzled will love this new romance between artsy boys. Those who enjoyed Sheba Karim's The Marvelous Mirza Girls will like this new coming-of-age romance. 


Publisher: Flatiron Books
Date: July 26, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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