Wednesday 26 June 2013

Reviewed by Emily: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr.

Product details:
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Ebook, 307 pages
Release date: May 1st 2013  
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Age: 12+
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Emily

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?

The Lucy Variations is a raw, powerful portrayal of the life of a teen girl after she walks away from the thing that defined her.
As with all of Zarr’s novels, I loved the way she navigated complex family relationships in this novel. All of the characters had a different dynamic with each other, and it was interesting to see their relationships evolve–or maybe not so much the relationships themselves, but Lucy’s perspective on them. I was particularly moved by Lucy’s relationship with her grandfather. And her mother. And her father. Okay, pretty much all of the characters. This is one thing that Zarr gets right every single time, and a big reason why I will keep reading her books.
Lucy comes across as quite selfish at times, which I found grating, but…sometimes people are selfish, right? I appreciated that Lucy wasn’t a perfect MC who said and did all the right things. She was mean to her friends; she had a weird thing for older guys. But she was also loving and caring and intelligent. I don’t feel like her character ended when the book ended. She feels so real, like she could be out there right now at music school, or having coffee with Reyna. 
I think anyone who has been passionate about a craft and at some point lost that passion will relate to Lucy’s story. You don’t have to be a musician to get it. Sometimes you get burnt out, even about the things you live for. The Lucy Variations also explores the flip side of that – how amazing it feels to be passionate about something, those moments when it feels so right. There were lots of interesting thoughts about the creative process and having an audience that I appreciated from a writer’s perspective. 
One part of this novel I found hard to digest was Lucy’s relationship with her brother’s piano teacher. It’s never quite defined, but it verges into an uncomfortable grey area. I think the thing that will turn off some readers is that Zarr never says the relationship is wrong. She doesn’t pass judgement, she just lays it all out and lets you decide. This might be difficult for some readers who want to hear that it’s wrong. And I totally get that, because I wanted that very thing. But in the end, I realised that wouldn’t be right for this story. 
When I finished The Lucy Variations, I had no idea how I felt about it. Did I hate it? Did I love it? But after a few days thinking about it, I decided I fall firmly in the love category. It’s not the kind of book that I will beg people to read, because I know everyone is going to have a very different, very personal reaction to it. It’s messy, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also beautiful



  1. Liz @ Planet Print26 June 2013 at 22:34

    I've read a few Sarah Zarr books and the main characters are always imperfect/have several flaws - I think she does it on purpose, because, like you said, sometimes people are selfish and no-one is perfect in real life! Makes the books more believable. Glad you enjoyed this one, I'll have to check it out! Great review :).

  2. Liz @ Planet Print26 June 2013 at 22:37

    *Sara. I need to learn to reread comments before I post them -_-

  3. daisychainbooks26 June 2013 at 22:46

    I've yet to read any Sara Zarr books. Need to add some to my list because I've heard lots of good things! :)

  4. Okay so I haven't read anything by Sara Zarr. However, I do have this one in my review pile and I think I'll be moving it up after this review. I get the feeling I'll be able to relate to Lucy in the respect of the whole "passion for something" element. Judging from your review, I predict that I'll fall more towards the "love" category, hopefully. lol. Thanks for posting such a helpful review. :D


  5. I highly recommend her stuff! How to Save a Life is my fave, followed by Sweethearts. :-)

    Thanks for posting my review, Leanna!

  6. Thanks for your lovely comment, Briana. I hope you enjoy TLV! :-)

  7. I have a copy of this and I really unsure about giving it a try due to the mixed reviews, but I think I will have to give it a try now after your gorgeous review Emily. I like the sound of how Zarr lets you take a step back and think about things instead of forcing everything onto you. Lovely review! :)

  8. daisychainbooks27 June 2013 at 10:58

    Always happy to post your reviews, lovely! :) How to Save a Life is on my TBR so I'll have to check that one out sometime soon. :)

  9. I've had an iffy history with Sara Zarr books, but I do like the sound of this one. Plus, I'm weird, but I love it when a book makes you think about it a few days before you can actually decide whether you loved it or if it fell flat. That is the mark of a good book ;) Great review, Leanna!

  10. I'm definitely looking forward to read this book. Thanks for the honest review.

  11. I haven't read anything by this author before. I like the sound of this one though, raw, messy and uncomfortable just make me curious to know more.

  12. Thanks, Liz! You're right, it does make her work more believable. TLV is different from her previous work in that she uses third person, which seemed to fall flat for some readers. But it didn't bother me. I'm curious to see what you think of this one!


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