Tune It Out

tune it out

From the author of the acclaimed Roll with It comes a moving novel about a girl with a sensory processing disorder who has to find her own voice after her whole world turns upside down.

Lou Montgomery has the voice of an angel, or so her mother tells her and anyone else who will listen. But Lou can only hear the fear in her own voice. She’s never liked crowds or loud noises or even high fives; in fact, she’s terrified of them, which makes her pretty sure there’s something wrong with her.

When Lou crashes their pickup on a dark and snowy road, child services separate the mother-daughter duo. Now she has to start all over again at a fancy private school far away from anything she’s ever known. With help from an outgoing new friend, her aunt and uncle, and the school counselor, she begins to see things differently. A sensory processing disorder isn’t something to be ashamed of, and music might just be the thing that saves Lou—and maybe her mom, too.---from the publisher

288 pages 978-1-5344-5700-3 Ages 10-14

Keywords: sensory processing disorder, mother/daughter, family, friends, self image, self acceptance, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, 14 year old, finding yourself, homelessness, poverty, foster home


Jamie Sumner, Atheneum, September 2020,

Driving on snow-covered streets for the first time, on the way to pick up her mother at work, twelve-year-old Louise Montgomery accidentally wrecks the truck in which she and Mom have been living. Lou also suffers a concussion. Child Protective Services promptly removes Lou from her mother’s custody and escorts her across the country to Nashville, Tennessee. For now, she’s to live with her maternal aunt Ginger whom she barely recalls from an early childhood visit.


“‘Did you ever try to see her again?’ I ask Ginger. And by ‘her’ I really mean ‘me.’

‘Oh, Lou, of course I did. But she just...disappeared. No forwarding address, No phone number. Nothing. Apart from the occasional postcard, she was off the map. Honey--’ Her voice breaks. ‘I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I am just now getting to know you.’

She’s for real crying now, and so am I. But I’m more angry than sad. I’m mad at Mom for keeping every important detail from me. What my grandparents were really like. The fact that my aunt was a lawyer and nice and wanted to see me. Even the volleyball and that she used to clean people’s houses. If our past is part of what makes us who we are, like she said every time we had to move, then she hid 90 percent of herself from me.”


“Put a gun against his head

Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead”

-- Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)


What triggers you?


Louise is a young person with an invisible disability. She has a sensory processing disorder. She cannot stand to be touched or to hear unanticipated loud noises. Mom has been the only one who can touch her without triggering an intense reaction. There are numerous instances when Lou begins screaming uncontrollably and sometimes pulls clumps of her hair out in reaction to sudden, unexpected sensations.


Lou’s mom is both a sympathetic and unsympathetic character. As a teenager, she attracted lots of boys. She left home at 17, not knowing which of them had made her pregnant. She has stubbornly tried to make it alone, with a disabled child in tow. But things have not gone well. More often than not, Lou has not attended school. She’s suffered from chronic hunger. Meanwhile, she and her mom have moved on to a new town whenever one of Lou’s sensory episodes has attracted unwanted attention.


Lou is a talented young singer. Her mother has sought to make money and attract the attention of talent agents by persuading Lou to sing for spare change in various public venues. But it’s often tortuous for the girl.


TUNE IT OUT portrays caring professionals who recognize that Lou is an at-risk child who has an unusual problem. When Lou becomes ready to accept their assistance, they provide behavioral strategies that permit her to begin coping with her disability.


Best of all, she’s then able to discover her place as a kid in the world, successfully immersing herself in school work and finding herself amidst a group of new and delightfully quirky friends (the Drama crowd). She even gets an unexpected opportunity to display her vocal talent.


I love the way that Lou eventually comes to recognize that, while you can’t pick your birth family, you can choose the one you end up with. TUNE IT OUT is an uplifting tale about a girl overcoming tough challenges. It’s a super fascinating health topic. Tweens should eat this one up.


Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA

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