Friday, November 21, 2014

The Lucy Variations

I was at the library recently, browsing the "New in Young Adult" shelf, when I came across  The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr. The title and author sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember why.

I checked out the book, took it home, and read it with zeal. It's about a teenage girl, Lucy, who had a promising career as a concert pianist. She was a prodigy, but the pressure got to her, and she quit performing. In fact, she quit playing altogether. In the course of the book, she's mentored by her younger brother's piano teacher, and she discovers her love of playing again.

When I finished the book and read the acknowledgements at the end, I learned why the title and author had sounded familiar. Julie Scheina, my colleague for a brief time, was the editor! She'd told me about the book, I realized. Luckily enough, I had lunch with her scheduled for the next week, so I could ask her something that had been worrying me about the book. Was Lucy's relationship with her brother's piano teacher inappropriate? He was 30, she was 16. Her feelings for him were not just platonic--but what about his for her? In one of their last conversations in the book, he says to her, "You're beautiful, Lucy. Inside and out. And that hurts, too. It hurts more specifically. More personally." I asked Julie if he was supposed to be a creep--if that was what the author intended. She said no, he wasn't supposed to be a creep. He was okay, just sad and a bit misguided (I'm paraphrasing--I don't remember exactly what Julie said). But there is a limit to an author's power. Not everyone has a chance to consult with the editor to find out what the author intended, so the reader's interpretation stands. And I think he was a creep.

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