Can’t Take That Away
Published March 9, 2021
About Can’t Take That Away
An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.
Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.
Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.
Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.
I had a lot of fun reading this book, but I’m not going to lie– some parts were hard, not because of the storytelling, but because they were hard things. I cried more than once. But I laughed a lot, too. Carey has the best friends. I loved how they rallied around them and offered support and solidarity.
This will surprise exactly no one who knows me, but I LOVED the relationship between Carey and their grandmother. I was super close to my grandmother who also had a form of Alzheimer’s Disease, and the feelings of support and that intergenerational connection totally resonated with me.
Also the food! I’m the most curious about the mint in the meatballs and sauce– which is apparently totally a thing! I also grew up with (and now make) homemade marinara and meatballs, but I’ve never used mint in them. Now I want to experiment.
Also the music. I loved the homage to Mariah Carey and the way that music is such a huge part of this story. I also loved that while Carey’s audition for Wicked was important, the story didn’t center around that moment. Rather, I felt like it elevated Carey’s participation in the musical to be a part of something so much bigger and really, more essential: their right to respect and equality.
Books that craft a meaningful community always seem to stick with me, and I think CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY will be no exception. I loved that Carey’s what began with Carey’s friends and family expanded to touch their whole community. I felt like the book ended on such a huge high note, and really left me feeling inspired and hopeful.
I think readers who enjoyed MUSIC FROM ANOTHER WORLD by Robin Talley or books about theater and music will love this one.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Carey is genderqueer. Another character identifies as bisexual, another as lesbian, and another as pansexual.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used regularly through the book.
Kissing between a genderqueer teen and boy. Kissing between two girls.
One character talks about a person who has died watching over them, feeling them present at a significant moment.
Violent Content – Trigger Warning
References to queerphobic terms a few times without the words being named. In one instance, a slur is used.
There are also some instances of bullying and physical assault.
Carey’s mom offers Carey’s friend group small glasses of champagne to celebrate a victory.
Note: I received a free copy of CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.