Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on May 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Sweethearts, The Running Dream, Story of A Girl
Source: For Review
I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!
Lucy, before the age of 14, was already well on her way to becoming a famous concert pianist and was already widely followed. Until one day when Lucy decides to quit — an act that her family still can’t even get over after some time has passed and Lucy is now 16. She struggles with their resentment and watch her family put all the pressure on her younger brother’s career but also adjusting to life as being a normal teenager — going to school, having normal relationships etc. There’s also the fact she still loves music but she needs to work out how she can play for herself without being in that world and her brother’s new piano teacher, Will, may be just the one to help her figure it out.
This pains me to write because I had such a great experience with Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts but The Lucy Variations just never took off for me. It’s not that I disliked it. I just didn’t love it or really feel much for it at all. There were moments that captivated me with this book but that’s about all they were — moments. I will admit that this had been my gym read and I forgot about it for a few months when I stopped going to the gym and started another workout routine so some of my feelings may be because I took off some time from it before I finished it.
The premise itself was really interesting to me — a former piano prodigy gives it all up and struggles with a life that involves being a normal teen and the family who resents her for quitting. There were a lot of interesting dynamics in this one like Lucy’s family building their life around this competitive piano playing, Lucy’s penchant for being into guys who are older and not appropriate crushes to have per se (aka teachers) and obviously Lucy trying to reconcile where her love for piano can fit into her life on her own terms now that she’s given up her career. There was also the scandal surrounding her LEAVING that world, her brother’s new piano teacher and friends who have to deal with her transitioning. The THINGS were there to make this a great one for me!
On the surface it did make it a compelling read for me, I was generally fascinated (and appalled) by Lucy and her family. Seriously her family is the worst and Lucy isn’t too far behind them. I even was intrigued by this relationship that Lucy began to have with her brother’s teacher. It was kind of provocative and I wondered where Zarr was going to go with it as soon as there were some seeds planted and I appreciated the fact I felt uncomfortable while reading it. I thought it was handled well. I also, despite not really feeling much for Lucy, was kind of interested in how she would reconcile her love for piano.
But the thing that just didn’t make this novel what it could have been for me was the characters. And it’s not even that most of them were dislikeable or awful but it’s that I didn’t feel like they were full of life which was a bummer for me considering how I know Sara Zarr can write really full characters. I felt nothing for any of them really. On the surface they were all pretty interesting characters but there was some disconnect in making me feel like I should care and that they were more than who we were told they were. I didn’t feel like I really got to know anyone besides Lucy despite it being 3rd person.
I think, despite this not being the best Sara Zarr for me, that there are still a lot of redeemable things about it especially the writing and the readability once you get really into it and I have no doubt there are plenty of readers who loved this and will love it. Something just went amiss for me personally.
I hate that I didn’t love this. The THINGS were there to make this a great one and there were super compelling elements but it just hovered around the “that was alright but I don’t feel much about it” mark as I finished. The writing was high quality though just wished I didn’t feel such a disconnect with the characters. I knew them because of what I was told of them but I didn’t FEEL them. Maybe it was the 3rd person narrative which only really followed Lucy? I don’t typically have a problem with 3rd person so who knows!
stories about talented YA’s, family dynamic issues explored, realistic YA fiction, music especially classical, really well written YA realistic fiction