When Sara Zarr wrote How to Save a Life, I was hooked. I really liked the book, and wrote about for it our Online Teen Book Club. Once I read that one, I couldn’t stop, and so I read all of her other books, which may sound more impressive than it is since she had only written a total of four books at that point. This May, she published her most recent novel, The Lucy Variations, and when it arrived, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This past weekend, I devoted myself to that book, and when I was done, I felt that satisfaction you can only get after you read a really good book.
Lucy Beck-Moreau was once famous, a gifted pianist who won competitions and toured the world. She had a bright future in the world of music, something that couldn’t have made her mother and grandfather any prouder. But that all changed eight months ago, when she walked away from her career. Since then, her family has transferred their hopes onto Gus, her ten-year-old brother, who displays the same talent and skill she once did. With the sudden death of Gus’ teacher, however, the family is introduced to Will, a talented and unorthodox piano teacher who is rumored to have a golden touch.
As Will works with Gus, Lucy discovers that she may not be entirely finished with music. The question becomes, can she find a way to play music again without succumbing to her family’s pressure and expectations? And does she want to?
I have only good things to say about this book. I loved the easy writing style and the way you get a clear idea of who Lucy is. She’s sixteen, and she’s unsure what she wants, where she wants to end up, and what she wants to do with her life. She struggles against her feelings of betrayal, her feelings of grief, and her feelings of being completely unmoored. Once, she was special and people knew who she was; now, she can barely get to class on time and most of her classmates have no idea she even goes to school with them. I found her struggles very realistic and compelling. Lucy makes decisions and then changes her mind, something which can frustrate those around her, but which rang really true to me. I think what I liked most was that I always felt like I wanted to be on her side. She makes mistakes and acts sort of silly at times, but you understand why, and I think that really speaks to strong writing.
The cast of supporting characters was also really amazing. Through Zarr’s words, you feel Will’s compelling enthusiasm, and you don’t have to wonder why Lucy feels inspired again. Her best friend, Reyna, has her own problems. With her parents going through an ugly divorce, she doesn’t always have the patience for Lucy’s shenanigans. She also offers Lucy some perspective, because she knows her friend pretty well and isn’t clouded by the knowledge that Lucy is a prodigy. I liked that Reyna grounded Lucy, making the reader notice that some of Lucy’s actions are like that of any normal teenage girl (and I mean that in a good way).
This was a fast-paced read, and a well-written one. I loved the world Zarr built, and I plan to keep picking up her books. If you’re looking for a realistic and fun book that is about self-discovery (with very little romance), this may be the one for you. Give it a try!