ARC Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

book reviewing-01

the lucy variationsTitle: The Lucy Variations
Author: Sara Zarr
Date(s) read: July 20, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher (ARC)


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.

my thoughts-01

Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for a copy of this for review!

Being a piano player, I am quite partial to books ABOUT piano players. Sure, I never made it to the concert level (darn scales and speed!), but I can really appreciate the dedication it takes to learn an instrument like the piano and to play it well.

I loved this book — it was perfect right from the beginning pages until the very end!

Lucy was a great character and I could see how she would feel so torn on going back to an instrument that seemed to become forbidden to her, based on the person who pushed her so hard in the past. What makes her situation most difficult is that her younger brother, Gus, is also a piano player — also at the concert level — so while he’s working at his future, Lucy is inspired to go back to play just for herself, and also to make sure that Gus doesn’t get pushed to the edge like she did.

Actually, the reason that Lucy was forced to stop competing for drove me nuts. That was one thing I couldn’t imagine having in my life — a character like Lucy’s grandfather, to whom nothing else matters when competition is on the line. Even if that means family situations and life outside of the piano. When it comes to characters in the story, he was the one that drove me absolutely crazy!

I did like Gus’s new piano teacher, especially how he pushed Lucy to just start playing for herself. (As a side note: as he was pushing Lucy to just start playing and working at her craft, I also pulled out my piano books, having abandoned my classical training ten years ago when I was at the height of my game.) I loved how down to earth he was and how he wasn’t so strict with Gus.

I also kind of loved that I recognized a lot of the music talk that happened in the book. It really helped me to connect with the story and really invest in the characters.

The romance was the part of the story that I didn’t really like — though I’m not sure you could call it romance. It was more like a forbidden friendship — a friendship that was on the borderline between right and wrong. I thought, for the most part, it was done well, but certain things that happened at the end just didn’t make sense to me. I guess I wanted better things for Lucy and that’s not a bad thing to want in a story like this.

This was my first Sara Zarr book and it definitely won’t be my last! I also look forward to finding more piano books in the future.


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15 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

  1. This one sounds really interesting. I remember hating the pressure of going to festivals and adjudications when I took piano. I just like to play for fun once in a while now.

    • Yes! I was always so nervous for adjudications … I love playing for fun, but kind of wish I made a habit of practicing the classical stuff I learned. I don’t remember any of it now, 10 years later!

  2. Oh, this one sounds so lovely. I can’t play any instruments, but I love reading about musicians and if someone who plays the instrument in the book says it’s good, then it must be. I’ll have to find this book to read soon. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your review!

  3. Now I’m wondering why she quit! It just makes me want to This sounds like another emotional book (maybe I’m wrong?), so seems like something I would enjoy reading. I do like reading about musicians occasionally, so I think it would be good 🙂

  4. I’m glad you liked this one. Sara Zarr is one of my favorite authors and I am really looking forward to this book. Some of the reviews have been mixed and I was worried but I feel like maybe I have something to look forward to again! Try How to Save a Life. Phenomenal.

  5. Reading the synopsis gives me thoughts of If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Just me? Similar? Totally different? I haven’t read any Sara Zarr books, this one sounds interesting!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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