Title: The Lucy Variations
Author: Sara Zarr
Release Date: May 2013
Despite the popular saying, I often judge books by their cover. So naturally, it was impossible not to pick up The Lucy Variations, with its loopy cursive title and elegant looking piano keys. Yet, look beyond the glamour of the cover and the luxury of the lives of the characters, and you will find a well-written, provocative coming-of-age story.
Lucy Beck-Moreau was a renowned concert pianist at the age of 14, but her grandmother’s death caused her to walk away from all of it. Now, at 16, her career is over, and she doesn’t know if her grandfather will ever forgive her for giving up. However, Lucy’s brother Gus gets a new piano teacher, Will, who helps her rekindle her love for piano on her own terms. But in Lucy’s family, giving up on something is for good, so will they be able to accept her decision to play again, even if it doesn’t involve their idea of award-winning perfection?
I was surprised to see that there were several reviews on Goodreads criticizing the characters and the plotline in this story. Lucy was called a spoiled brat, and some thought the plotline cliché. I, on the other hand, thought Lucy was an extremely relatable and realistic character. The fact that Lucy felt overwhelmed in the moment and gave up on piano makes her character more realistic. Cracking under pressure is something you would often see in real life, and is something that most people have had to deal with at some point in their life.
On the surface, the plotline does seem cliché, but Zarr’s writing is absolutely fabulous, and she is able to incorporate one of the most important ideas of becoming a teenager: finding a passion. Lucy’s struggle to break free from her family’s ridiculously high expectations is something that almost all teenagers face in some form or another, whether it is with school, music, or something else. Overall, I’d say The Lucy Variations has an interesting plotline and superb writing, but the most impressive thing about this book is how it captures the struggles faced by most of its young adult audience.
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