Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Lucy Variations: [ARC] One Book, Two Reviews

  This book was received by Malissa from the Publisher for an honest review.

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.



All I really knew about this book was that it was written by Sara Zarr, who I have enjoyed in the past, and it had to do with music, which I love. And I was not disappointed.

Lucy grew up in a world completely foreign to me, but it didn't feel foreign while reading it. I was impressed with how easy it was to feel how it would be growing up in a household such as Lucy's and Gustav's. Zarr transported me to a world completely unfamiliar to me and I felt like I was part of it. More importantly, I felt I was part of the relationships within the story.

Lucy has a tendency to be selfish without even realizing it. Everything about her - from her selfishness, her indecisiveness, her friendships, her relationships with her family members - felt real. Nothing was perfect, as is the reality of life. There were parts that made me talk aloud to her, like she was sitting right next to me and could hear my advice to her. "No, you shouldn't be yelling at that person, you need to yell at this person." Alas, she didn't hear me and yelled at the wrong one. But still. I cared about her and how her choices were effecting herself and her family and friends.

I don't think Zarr could have ended it better, though. Her choices led her to a life that she chose, not that was chosen for her.And that's an important lesson in life, for all ages.


This was a book that I didn't know anything about before reading it. I read my first Sara Zarr book last year (How to Save a Life) with my teen book club and really liked it. So when I saw an offer for an ARC of this one from the publisher, I jumped on it without bothering to read the description. I've found that I like doing that. It keeps me from making assumptions and having preconceived ideas going in. 

Anyway, I really liked this book overall. I liked Lucy and found her to be a complex and sympathetic main character even when she was making decisions that I, as an adult reader, could see were bad. There wasn't a ton of development of or depth to the secondary characters with the exceptions of Will (of course), Gus, and Lucy's grandfather to some extent. But that seemed to serve to put Lucy in real focus in a fairly short story. 

I'm trying to keep this review mostly spoiler free, but it's hard to discuss this book without discussing the relationships between characters because that's what the book is *about.* So if you really, really don't want to know anything going in, skip the paragraph between the stars. [Brandy: My review seems so vague & short now... lol]


So .... Will. What do I think of him? I made a note at page 129 (not quite halfway) that I really hoped he didn't do anything "inappropriate." And he mostly didn't. But he also did. And it was both expected and sad. I hated the way that Lucy's and Will's relationship put her and Gus at odds. Gus was hurt! And understandably so. I hated the way that Will shared some of his adult unhappiness (a comment about seeing his wife at her worst everyday was particularly bothersome to me) with his teenage mentee. And I really hated how Will seemed to use Lucy to further his own career. Really hated that. And yet, without Will, Lucy wouldn't have grown like she did. Her life is forever better for having him in it for a time. But also worse because he caused her to grow up in a sad way by realizing that people's intentions aren't always as honorable as we'd like them to be. Even people who claim to and perhaps really do care about us. Boo. But also very, very realistic.  [Brandy: I agree with all she says here... every single thing.]


In the end, it's the relationships that make this book. Yes, events happen,but it's largely about Lucy's growth and her realization that you can be who you are and maybe that's what others want you to be too and maybe it's not, but both are OK. It's about Lucy's complex relationship with Will, her mentor, both the good and the bad, her relationships with her family members (each one different), and her relationship with her music. I think this book is special because it isn't about a big event or a romance or an apocalypse (no matter how much I love me some apocalypse!) but is more of a literary novel that doesn't talk down to the teens it's geared toward but is also very readable and enjoyable. It would make a great teen book club book or just a good read for any fans of realistic fiction. [Brandy: Yes! It definitely would... :)]

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