Review of “The Lucy Variations” by Sara Zarr

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.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2013

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9 Responses to Review of “The Lucy Variations” by Sara Zarr

  1. Sandy says:

    Often times the teenage personalities in these books are obnoxious, which is normal, but I agree with you, there needs to be growth or what is the point? You don’t to suffer through all that drama and get nothing out of it!

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve only read one Zarr book but I loved it. I had high hopes for this one. :/

  3. bookingmama says:

    Sorry this one didn’t work for you. Like Kathy, I’ve only read one of her books and really enjoyed it.

  4. Charlie says:

    I’d be interested in this just because of the music but the if the character doesn’t change enough I’m not so sure. Especially as you’d kind of need growth given the premise.

  5. Every once in a while an author has to get “that” book out of their system!

  6. Athira says:

    Pity.. I liked the cover of this one too much. Oh well, there are other books.

  7. Damyanti says:

    I don’t like books where the characters don’t change one way or the other. Thanks for this honest review.

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    I keep waiting for the day when Gage will turn into a prodigy. I think it will have something to do with trains.

  9. Aw, shame. I have really enjoyed the Sara Zarr books I’ve read in the past (which is like, two or three of them?), and I’ll probably still read this, but I will try not to hope for too much from it.

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