Author: Sara Zarr
Publication Date: 5/7/2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Blurb: Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.
Then they went over here.
Then she talked about this.
Then he left.
Know what I mean? I want to know how they’re getting from place to place. I want to see the movement. I want to hear the conversation. I need more description, dialogue, and action and less simple narration of events.
However, does this mean I will be abandoning Sara Zarr and striking her from my judgment-worthy list of favorite YA authors? Hell no. I can only speculate, but maybe this is Sara Zarr’s attempt at a new creative direction, something that I can only support. Maybe this is the equivalent of her going up on stage and playing Philip Glass when we all expected to hear Bach. It wasn’t a perfect, error-free rendition, but I appreciate her effort. And I will keep reading and supporting whatever she decides to put out there.
In terms of the story, I was disappointed in the lack of resolution. The ending felt hurried and there were several loose ends--not "oh, I guess it could go either way and it's left up to interpretation" types of loose ends, more "why was this subplot even introduced if it was going nowhere?" types of loose ends. For example, the relationship between Lucy and her prior teacher felt like a speed bump in the story and I was not sure why it was included. And arguably the largest conflict in the book, that between Lucy and her grandfather, goes out with a fizzle. When it comes down to it, as a reader I felt that this novel was missing its emotional core, something Zarr is typically fantastic at cultivating, so I never really connected to the story, the characters, or the style. I'll still be first in line to read Zarr's next book, and in all likelihood, her next ten.
How great would it have been if Lucy had sat down at the concert and played the song from her grandfather's record collection that reminded him of his late wife? That would've been a kick in the pants for him.
Generally, it's a good thing when authors try to experiment and explore new points of view and styles of writing. But sometimes when they try something new, it just doesn't work as well as the old. This is the case with The Lucy Variations I think. The thing I disliked the most about this novel is its POV, specifically its 3rd person POV instead of Zarr's signature 1st. It was a challenge for the author herself (she talked about this in her blog post), and the challenge, in my opinion, not well met in this case. I am still scratching my head in an effort to understand why Zarr chose to write this new novel this way. 3rd person POV added nothing to the narrative (it is a very close 3rd person, with only Lucy's perspective used, we never get insight into any other character's mind) and added unnecessary feeling of detachment to the story.
As for everything else, while the book was still enjoyable to a degree, the plot felt a bit stale. I never finished Virtuosity, but these two novels sound fairly similar - artistic girls in creative and personal crisis and all that . Whatever new and interesting Zarr had in her version - mainly Lucy's inappropriate relationships with older men - never materialized into anything tangible and punchy. Lucy's friends were a waste and underutilized in the plot, and so were many other plot lines which started out promising but ended wit.
All in all, The Lucy Variations is just an average read and by far Zarr's weakest. Fingers crossed, her next effort is better.