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The Lucy Variations Hardcover – May 7, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Pressure, expectation, the responsibility of “proving to the world and yourself that you weren’t just taking up space.” This has been privileged San Franciscan Lucy Beck-Moreau’s childhood as a renowned concert pianist. But after a family betrayal eight months ago, the 16-year-old walked off the stage in Prague, and her controlling grandfather’s words haunt her: “I take this as your final decision, Lucy.” Now, though, Lucy’s talented pianist brother, Gus, has a new teacher, Will, and he has taken a special interest in Lucy, asking her questions such as “What do you love?” and encouraging her to find the fun in music again. As she and Will grow closer, their relationship begins to cross lines, and she eventually wonders if Will has her best intentions at heart—a question that’s perhaps not fleshed out enough in the novel’s end. But Zarr (Story of a Girl, 2007) does what she does best. Writing in the third person, she really, truly gets inside her characters’ minds and shows us what makes them complex human beings—their faults, fears, and hopes. The supporting characters, from best friend Reyna to English teacher Mr. Charles, are also deeply drawn, and each provides insight as Lucy searches for her own sense of self. The novel itself is structured like a musical composition with three movements of varying tempos and the occasional intermezzo. This is a mellifluous novel about rekindling joy—in music, in the everyday, and in the beauty around us. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Zarr’s Story of a Girl was a National Book Award finalist, and her books are consistently met with multiple starred reviews. A national author tour kicks off the publication of her latest. Grades 9-12. --Ann Kelley

Review

"An elegant novel...Zarr vividly develops the title character, illuminating Lucy's teenage insecurities, her close and fractious friendships and the coming-of-age realization that she can pursue her dreams on her own terms...A rewarding journey for readers."―The New York Times Book Review

"This book has so much depth and character that it stays with you like actual memories. I love how Sara Zarr can make you laugh and cry on the same page, and I think this is her best book yet."―James Dashner, New York Times bestselling author of The Maze Runner (Metro New York)

* "[Zarr] really, truly gets inside her characters' minds and shows us what makes them complex human beings -- their faults, fears, and hopes...This is a mellifluous novel about rekindling joy -- in music, in the everyday, and in the beauty around us."―Booklist, starred review

* "Zarr doesn't waste a word in this superb study of a young musical prodigy trying to reclaim her life....[Lucy is] a deeply real and sympathetic character, and that dimensionality extends to the rest of the cast. The pressures Lucy is under feels powerful, immediate, and true -- her journey of self-discovery will strike a profound chord with readers."―Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "The combination of sympathetic main character and unusual social and cultural world makes this satisfying coming-of-age story stand out."―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Exploring relationships is where Zarr soars . . . This strong coming-of-age story about music, passion, and the search for identity will appeal to longtime fans of Zarr's work and newcomers alike."―SLJ, starred review

"A satisfying coming-of-age story and a thoughtful treatise on art, identity, and personal fulfillment."―The Horn Book

"[A] gripping YA novel about a 16-year-old music prodigy trying to survive the cutthroat world of piano competitions."―InStyle
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031620501X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316205016
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,461,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When we meet Lucy she is trying to save her brother's piano teacher. Madame Temnikova's death was a new beginning of sorts for Lucy and for her brother. Lucy's break-up with piano was like any other break-up. She was basically ok, but music was her very soul and something was missing without it. Lucy is adjusting to life back in mainstream school, seemingly happy to let her brother take the reigns as the resident piano prodigy while Lucy gets on with her life without the rigorous schedule, competitions, and constant examination of her career by her grandfather and mother. One of the most wonderful things about this book was the way that adults were written. Even through Lucy's teenage lens, they are complex and real, with complicated feelings and motivations that Lucy must struggle to understand or relate to. It was as if stepping out of the performing spotlight allowed her to see her family as individuals rather than a cog in the wheel that turned her career.

Then there's Will. Will, the youngish piano teacher who comes to teach her brother but ends up drawing Lucy out of her self-imposed musical dry spell seems to be a prayer answered. Lucy's belief that Will could bring her back to the thing she loved was perhaps naive, but also heart breaking to read. Lucy's search for herself and search for the approval that she used to get from playing, taught her some hard lessons. I got a real sense from the story that even though lessons can be painful, there is value in them. The bubble that Lucy has put herself in since the day she walked off that stage in Prague has protected her, but it has also cut her off from the people that love her. If anything, this story is about her journey to reconnect with her life on her terms, with or without music.
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Format: Hardcover
My first Sara Zarr novel, The Lucy Variations is a messy coming-of-age story, one that seemed to be just my kind of read. And sometimes it was. At parts, The Lucy Variations was beautifully written, deeply moving, and heartbreakingly realistic. Although we're not all music prodigies like the main character, Lucy, was, I think we can all relate to her story in some way or another, the loss and confusion and uncertainty.

However, for the most part I found the third person POV to be disjointed, the characters - especially Lucy, whom I found to be bratty and whiny - too distant, and not as relatable as I would've hoped. A lot of things, too, like Lucy's inappropriate attraction to older men, her best friends, and Lucy's relationship with Will's wife, didn't quite seem to fit into the overall story, and ended up as just scattered, unnecessary scenes adding to the page count.

I did enjoy the themes of family and felt that the relationships Lucy had with her own family were really well-built, her relationship with Gus and her grandfather in particular. While the romance wasn't really a romance and definitely not something you should pick up this book expecting a lot of (actually, don't expect much at all), the family themes were there and strong, and added dynamic change to the story.

The Lucy Variations was an interesting novel to read, and wonderful at times, but just not nearly enough. I did like it, but it did have it's faults. I think, perhaps, I'll go try another Sara Zarr novel - I've heard wonderful things about the ones written in first person POV, so perhaps this was a challenge for her that didn't quite work out?

(And, I just have to add, WILL. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?)
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Format: Hardcover
Two-second recap: The Lucy Variations is an intriguing look at how someone can endure and find their own way, even after they feel like they've lost everything.

***

Full review

Like every other Asian kid out there, I grew up playing the piano. While I never played well enough to compete, I did my fair share of recitals and showcases with people who were that good. I spent a lot of time wondering what their day-to-day lives were like (eight hours of piano playing a day? Yeesh), and how they had "normal" lives.

So when I heard that Sara Zarr was writing a book about a piano prodigy, I was intrigued enough to want to check out the book.

***

Plot overview

Lucy Beck-Moreau is from one of those families - a rich, elite and musically-inclined San Francisco family, where they are expected to be extraordinary from an early age.

For Lucy, her talents manifested itself in her piano playing. Before the age of fourteen, she was a fixture on the competition circuit. People came to her concerts, and knew her name. Her future seemed definite.

However, after a tragedy provokes her into walking away and giving it all up, Lucy is now adrift in her day-to-day life. She doesn't quite fit in as an ordinary student in her regular high school, but she doesn't quite know how to get back everything that she's lost, either.

Enter Will - a new piano teacher hired to teach Lucy's little brother, Gus. A former prodigy himself, Will wants to help Lucy regain her lost faith. But can she overcome the fears of her past?

***

Things that worked :

* The characterizations.

I've seen a lot of reviews criticize the characters of The Lucy Variations for being unlikable, and I agree.
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