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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013 7:01 am
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

9780316205016_p0_v2_s260x420Lynn:  Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right for you but what happens if the result is not what you intended?  Can you back down on one element without jeopardizing your hard-won independence?  This is just one of the fascinating issues Sara Zarr explores in her beautifully nuanced new book, The Lucy Variations (Little, Brown May 2013).

Until 8 months ago, 16-year-old Lucy Beck-Moreau had a shining future as a pianist.  Winning one competition after another, appearing at festivals and concerts, she was a rising star in the supremely competitive classical music world.  That is – until, numb with grief over the sudden death of her grandmother, Lucy walked off the stage and she hasn’t touched a piano since.  Despite her grandfather’s rage – “entitled brat, ungrateful” – Lucy hasn’t played since.  All the weight of the Beck-Moreau family musical ambition has fallen on Lucy’s equally talented little brother Gus who is now working intensely for an upcoming showcase of young talent.

Lucy has spent the eight months trying to be a “normal” teen although normal in her case does involve the privileges of wealth and she attends an exclusive private school.  When Gus’s new teacher, handsome Will, asks Lucy to play one day, she begins to wonder if she can.  Because Lucy has a deep and passionate love of music and playing and she realizes how badly she misses it.  Her Prague rebellion was much more over her Grandfather’s dominating rule and the eroding impact of pressure but how can she play again without losing her fragile grip on her bid to make her own decisions?

A great gift often comes with a great price and Zarr’s exploration of this will strike a chord with teens of all talents struggling to find a balance in their lives.

“But, in their house, childhood, like grief, was an episode merely tolerated.  An inconvenience and an obstacle to the real work of life:  proving to the world and to yourself that you weren’t just taking up space.”

Zarr’s writing hit all the right notes for me but I thought her portrayal of characters and relationships was especially deft.  That, in turn, made the exploration of some very intriguing issues have even more impact.  Not to overdo a theme here, but the melody running through this complex story, finding you own path while understanding its impact on the people you care for, is one that will be running through reader’s heads long after the end of the book.


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