Lucy Beck-Moreau is a sixteen-year old piano prodigy from a musical family headed by her domineering grandfather, who manages their careers. Her ten-year-old brother Gus is currently the focus of the family’s attention, since Lucy abruptly walked off the stage in Prague before a performance eight months earlier. When Gus gets a new piano teacher, Will, whom Lucy finds attractive and charming, she starts to rethink her decision to stop playing. But Lucy is intimidated by her grandfather, who told her that when she quit that night, she quit forever.
Discussion: A number of things didn’t gel for me in this book. The story centers around Lucy’s big meltdown in Prague, when she walked off the stage. What caused it however, as I saw it, was a totally unnecessary revelation by her father before the show. I don’t see why he couldn’t have waited until after her upcoming performance, since he had already procrastinated about telling her. Moreover, ever since then, everyone blamed Lucy instead of the father. It didn’t make sense to me.
Secondly, Lucy is all over the place with inappropriate behavior; her constant crushes on older men, whether married or not, as well as her occasional irresponsible drinking, insouciance, vacillation, and self-centered view of the universe. Okay, she is 16 and she has been treated like “an entitled brat” (as her grandfather says) her whole life, but one might think the reason for presenting Lucy this way is to show her growth. In the end, however, she learns particular truths about particular persons, but overall? I didn’t see any epiphanies on her part about her personal behavior. The only thing she does seem to learn is the importance of choosing what she wants to do based on her own wants and needs and not those of her family. But that wasn’t much of a stretch for Lucy; she was pretty self-oriented already.
Finally, some of the plot threads were just dropped. They weren’t critical, but why include them if they go nowhere?
There are, however, positive aspects to the book, too, besides Zarr’s great talent for teen dialogue and characterization. First of all, the title of the book is perfect – it couldn’t have been better. I also liked how, whenever a chapter departed from the main theme to reveal a flashback, it was called Intermezzo. Finally, I appreciated the music list appended to the end of the book written by “Lucy.”
Evaluation: I’m a fan of Sara Zarr; I think she has great insight into the minds of teenaged girls and she writes well. But I didn’t like the main protagonist of this book much. Nor did I think that everything in the story fit or displayed the narrative arc one might have expected.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2013