Thursday, December 04, 2014

Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Title: The Lucy Variations
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Release date: January 1st 2013
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA 2014
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Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. But without music in her life, Lucy's not sure who she is, or who she wants to be. Then she meets Will, her brother's new piano teacher, who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy find her way back to piano-not for an audience, but on her own terms.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's no secret I love Sara Zarr. She is one of my favorite writers, and Sweethearts is one of my all-time favorite books. And while I definitely saw some of the things I loved about Sara Zarr's previous books in this one, I just didn't connect with The Lucy Variations as much as I wanted to.

Honestly, a large part of why I didn't connect with The Lucy Variations as much as I did with Sara Zarr's previous books is the third-person narration. Sara Zarr is a master at creating relatable protagonists whose heads you enjoy being in, and I just don't think it worked as well in the third person as it does in the first-person narrations she has previously used. I liked Lucy's character, but it was a lot harder to connect with her than it was for me to care about Sara Zarr's previous main characters. Somehow, the third-person POV made some parts of the narrative just sound kind of awkward: parts sounded more like the narrator was summarizing events, rather than actually showing us what was happening. And since Sara Zarr's writing is what I usually like best about her books, I had a hard time with The Lucy Variations, where I didn't find the writing to be quite as strong.

Another issue I had was the pacing - it was really hard for me to get invested in the plot. This might just have been because I started the book at a busy time in the semester, so I couldn't read through it all as fast as I usually do, but I just didn't have that need to pick up the book whenever I could. I know this is a character-driven story, but the plot was so slow that I just got kind of bored at times. I think the pacing could have been more balanced over the course of the novel: very little happens for the first 250 pages or so, and then all the action towards the ending feels rushed in comparison.

The secondary characters are okay. I thought the family set-up was really interesting, with the pressure originating from an overbearing grandparent rather than parent. But at times, Lucy's family just felt a bit too one-dimensional, and it felt like they just kept saying the same things over and over again.

One thing I did really enjoy is Lucy's relationship with Will - not because I wanted them to be together, but because I thought that this added an interesting dynamic to Lucy's character. I also really enjoyed the ending, and I appreciate that Sara Zarr went with an empowered, independent development for Lucy's character, rather than going to standard romantic route.

I feel like most of my review is negative, but I did enjoy The Lucy Variations - I really liked the idea, and Sara Zarr does handle the development of Lucy's character arc over the course of the story really well. But because I had such high expectations from Sara Zarr, one of my favorite writers, I was disappointed that The Lucy Variations didn't quite live up to some of her earlier novels.


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