Monday, June 10, 2013

Mixed Review: The Lucy Variations

The Lucy Variations
by Sara Zarr

The Short Story
Lucy was a famed piano prodigy, until the day she called it quits. Now her brother is left to carry on the family legacy of piano excellence, and expectation, and all that comes with it. When he gets a new piano teacher, Lucy begins to question the place music should, or could, have in her life.
Some interesting things, but not my favorite of Zarr's books.

Sara Zarr is sort of the queen of the uncomfortably sympathetic protagonist, but Lucy is probably the most difficult of her characters, yet. I started out liking her enough. (In some ways, she reminded me of Jenna from Sweethearts - girl whose whole life and identity are one way, but aren't anymore. Probably. Maybe? There's even the use of flashback for the big reveal. But that's where the similarities end.) I thought Lucy's reactions to her overbearing family, her piano playing, and even her crushes on older men were understandable. Her family's always placing focus on being perfect/pleasing adults, and putting little value on youth would probably lead anyone to seek out approval and attention from adults. And see her peers as young and silly. So understandable, yes. But acceptable?  No.

And I think that's where one of my biggest problems with the book came in. Lucy's relationship with Will, the piano teacher, never quite goes into anything illegal. But it is far from appropriate. And I didn't feel like there was enough condemnation of it in the book. I also got tired of Lucy and her self-centeredness. The last 20 or so pages set the book on a better path, but it was hard getting there.

There are some nice themes, like how to rediscover your passions, taking ownership for your choices, and even what to do when things you love become drudgery. But I wanted more of that, and less uncomfortable relationship with the older, married teacher. I'm a big fan of Sara Zarr's books, but I wouldn't recommend anyone new to her style start with this one. (I'd go with How to Save a Life)

The Big Three:
Language: some swears throughout
Sex and Stuff: not technically an issue, but plenty of ick
Violence: not an issue


  1. Sara Zarr's books have been really hit and miss for me, so I'm just not sure how I'm going to feel about this one. It's waiting for me at the library -- I guess I'll find out soon enough, huh? Thanks for your review!

    1. Thanks! I hope you like it, but I think nearly every review I've seen struggled with parts of it.

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  3. Zarr really is the queen of uncomfortable heroines. She has a habit of not resolving/tying up certain plot points so I'm assuming that's what she's done in this instance. It does get frustrating at times. I think I'll give this one a miss. I'm not keen on reading about romances with married men.!

    1. Yes! The older, married teacher plot gave me the jibblies the. entire. time. There's actually quite a bit of resolution, though, which is not exactly the norm for her. :)

  4. Well, you know how I feel about Sara Zarr, so I probably won't be reading this one. Although, I keep saying that and yet I think I've actually read the majority of her books, so who knows? Hopefully Zarr's next book is more your thing!

    1. Yeah, I would never want to talk someone out of reading something that they wanted to, but I can't really see you liking this one. And I am the same way with John Green's books... mostly misses, but I keep reading them. :)