There are times when a book comes to you just at the right time. For me, this was one of those books. I happened to bring my niece to the library for storytime and after, while she played in the juvenille section, I took a look at the new YA offerings. As a singer and dancer, most images depicting music appeal to me, so the cover of The Lucy Variations, with a girl’s hand on a piano jumped out at me. Yes, I fully admit, I often judge books by their covers. And this one was really pretty and clearly had to do with music. It wasn’t until I read the synopsis that I realized it was also about so much more. Passion. Family pressure. Making choices that you don’t fully know the full scope of until after you’ve made them. Recovering from the aftermath of major life transitions. Waking yourself up to life again. The hunger for attention and the blurred lines we dance around to get it. Yes, this book was so much more than a a sixteen year old girl playing piano. But it does start there. Well…actually, it starts with the death of a piano teacher. Not a spoiler; it’s literally the first scene of the book.
In the opening pages, we’re introduced to Lucy Beck-Moreau, sixteen year old former piano prodigy, and her ten year old brother, Gustav…the up-and-coming piano prodigy. Lucy is trying to do CPR to her brother’s piano teacher and…well, fails. It’s theorized she had a stroke, and that there was “probably” nothing she could’ve done (Jeez, Mr. EMT. Couldja maybe have given her a little reassurance?). From there, Lucy and Gus’s family need to find Gus a new piano teacher that a) is available (duh), b) meets with their grandfather’s limited approval. The latter is actually what proves to be harder, since their grandfather’s musical opinions are harsh and not very inclusive. He’s an affluent codger who thinks performing is only valid if you’re the best or striving to be the best. Even at the expense of family. This type of pressure can get to anyone, especially children, and it’s revealed that Lucy walked away from her budding career less than a year earlier and had never touched a piano since. This garners the wrath of her grandfather and detached disapproval of her mother, making her family life a bit more strained than your average teenager.