Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Book: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Genre: YA
Rating:★★★☆ ☆
For: Review and Supporting Local Authors
From: ARC borrowed from co-worker

This was an interesting story about a music prodigy. Lucy has been playing in piano competitions nearly her whole life, but about 8 months before the events of the book, she up and quit. Through flashbacks we get the details of that story. It's sad.

And now, she is faced with what to do next. Does she start playing again? Does she even want to? Will her mom and grandpa even let her? Will it mess up her brother who is also a musical genius?

All these questions start coming to a head when her brother gets a new teacher. A young, hip, handsome one. Lucy is very much drawn to him and he helps her to start figuring out where she stands on all this.

I enjoyed the story, for the most part. Some of it got a little detailed into the piano thing and the life of these prodigies. Interesting,  but sometimes not. I did love the music discussion though, and how music moves us and is so powerful.

The strange and somewhat disturbing bit about this book is the attraction this girl has for this much older teacher. I mean, I get having a crush and all, but it goes a little beyond that. And in fact, it goes right to the edge of something not too good. I was a bit squirmy! I don't know, it was just strange.

What I did love is that at the back, there's a playlist of all the songs mentioned in the book. I actually looked some up, because there were several that I'm not familiar with. That was pretty fun.

Anyway, this book follows the tendancy for this author to write about deep subjects,  but I would have to say it's not one of my favorites of hers.

Bottom line: I liked it okay.

Other Reviews:

I like how Zarr shows a possible next chapter for the child prodigy who chooses to quit in a conscious defiance of her family and her peers. Beyond the guts of starting out a novel with a character in that position, Zarr certainly has the chops to dig Lucy out of that situation, and I think she accomplished that with aplomb. From Book Harbinger

As a piece of writing, The Lucy Variations is very impressive. Every scene, every character, every subplot worked to enhance the whole. From YA Romantics

Her characters always, always find a way to get under my skin. Sigh. So why didn’t that happen with The Lucy Variations? When I wanted to feel connected, I felt unconcerned. From The Readventurer

The Lucy Variations is about figuring out who you are (as distinct from your family) and what you love. It's beautifully written, with complex characters and realistic interactions. From Jen Robinson's Book Page

Lucy wishes that people were as familiar with the third movement of Beethoven's 5th as they are with the first. That's one of the songs she lists on her playlist. Here, I share it with you:


  1. I haven't read a Sara Zarr book yet. This one sounds interesting to me, although that teacher crush seems inappropriate. I just checked out Sweethearts. I hope I like it.

  2. Hmm ... I'm still waiting for Sara Zarr to write something as awesome as HOW TO SAVE A LIFE. I've read a couple others of hers and they're just okay. Bummer :(

    1. Susan: That's the only one I haven't read.

  3. I tried to read this one but the older guy didn't do it for me . I I have loved her other books but this one for me was a fail

  4. Hmmmm...I think that sometimes books that are so focused on a particular lifestyle can fall short on thrilling those not involved in that world.

  5. That's too bad. I've seen a couple other reviews that felt the same way... the whole deal with the older guy made them uncomfortable. I usually really like Sara Zarr's books, so I have to see about this one.

    1. Kathy:If you like her books, you should still give this one a try.

  6. I read a book once before about a college student that had an affair with a much older instructor. It was really ewwww although none of the characters in the book seemed to see anything wrong!

    1. Jeane: Even that seems better than a 16 year old girl and a beyond 30 year old guy. I don't know.

  7. Aw, thanks so much for quoting me!

    I must admit, I also got VERY worried about the teacher-student thing, but I loved the way that Sara Zarr made me think she was headed in one direction with that, and then veered right into another one.

  8. One of my local authors LOVES this book, so it is interesting to hear another point of view. I'm intrigued enough though to add it to my TBR list!

  9. The music geek in me is loving the idea of this book. I'd love to listen to the whole playlist at the back of the book! I used to be a piano major, but since then I've lost my love of music. I wonder if reading about her struggles would inspire me to pick it up again. I think that part with the teacher would make me squeamish too, but I think I'm going to give this one a try. Great review.



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