The Lucy Variations


About the Book

May 2013

It could be a depressing thing to believe, at sixteen, that your best years were behind you. Especially when the people closest to you seemed to agree.

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 newpiano 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?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top juniormusic competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music, and herself. It’s about finding joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.


“…an elegant novel…Zarr vividly develops the title character, illuminating Lucy’s teenage insecurities, her close and fractious friendships and the coming-of-age realization that she can pursue her dreams on her own terms.”The New York Times

“Zarr doesn’t waste a word in this superb study of a young musical prodigy trying to reclaim her life….[Lucy is] a deeply real and sympathetic character, and that dimensionality extends to the rest of the cast. The pressures Lucy is under feel powerful, immediate, and true—her journey of self-discovery will strike a profound chord with readers.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

” Zarr does what she does best. Writing in the third person, she really, truly gets inside her characters’ minds and shows us what makes them complex human beings—their faults, fears, and hopes. The supporting characters, from best friend Reyna to English-teacher Mr. Charles, are also complexly drawn, and each provides insight as Lucy searches for her own sense of self. ” – Booklist, starred review

“Exploring relationships is where Zarr soars; in addition to Lucy’s difficult rapport with her overbearing mother and stern grandfather, she must also cope with Gus’s anger and jealousy as Will’s interest in her career grows, her increasingly strained friendships, and her complicated feelings for Will himself. This strong coming-of-age story about music, passion, and the search for identity will appeal to longtime fans of Zarr’s work and newcomers alike.”School Library Journal, starred review

“What makes Lucy’s story especially appealing is the very realistic way this ‘entitled brat’ (as grandfather called her) acts out as she experiments with new identities. … The combination of sympathetic main character and unusual social and cultural world makes this satisfying coming-of-age story stand out.”Kirkus, starred review

“This is a wonderfully written story with fully realized characters. Even when they are disagreeable, each comes across as genuine and relatable in an engaging story beautifully told.”VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

“…the novel’s strength is Zarr’s unflinching attention to the gray areas on Lucy’s life, where adults are fallible, decisions are reversible, and passions can guide you forward or lead you astray. The result is both a satisfying coming-of-age story and a thoughtful treatise on art, identity, and personal fulfillment.” The Horn Book

“The ever-capable Zarr creates an utterly believable family in the Beck-Moreaus, with layers of function and dysfunction melding into one another. … Will, too, is an interestingly complicated character with his mixture of genuine tenderness toward Lucy, self-interest, and a soupçon of lust. Lucy’s life and possibilities may be fascinatingly exotic, but her desire to determine her own path will resonate with teen readers, especially those beginning to question where their own gifts will lead them.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The joys of this novel are many, but its most striking aspects are the genuine family moments that reflect both love and frustration, and the passion for music that permeates the structure, the plot and the characters’ lives.”Shelf Awareness / Jenn Northington, events manager at WORD bookstore

“As we watch the novel’s major characters through their interactions with Lucy, their flaws and lived-in traits rankle — in large part because they seem impervious to new possibilities of seeing. But this is, paradoxically, also their golden quality, as it is evidence that Zarr won’t let false awakenings occur.”The Salt Lake Tribune

“Zarr’s writing hit all the right notes for me but I thought her portrayal of characters and relationships was especially deft.  That, in turn, made the exploration of some very intriguing issues have even more impact.  Not to overdo a theme here, but the melody running through this complex story, finding you own path while understanding its impact on the people you care for, is one that will be running through reader’s heads long after the end of the book.” – Booklist Bookends Blog

“Sara Zarr is one of those rare authors who gets her own Talky Talk category at FYA because her writing voice is so distinctive and profoundly awesome. If Zarr wrote the instruction manual for my blender, I would not only read it with great interest and enthusiasm, I would probably cry at the end. So it comes as no surprise that The Lucy Variations is as carefully, painfully and exquisitely written as her previous books. Her characters are so perfectly flawed that it all feels too real. As usual, I started out disliking almost everyone, and then about halfway through found myself to be completely, irrevocably, emotionally invested in all of their lives, good or bad. Reading Zarr’s writing is by no means always a pleasurable experience; you feel the highest highs and lowest lows that her characters experience. What it is, however, is beautiful.”Forever YA Book Report

“Sara Zarr has a knack for choosing the hard-won and the complicated over cinematic victories and romantic payoff. Lucy’s sometimes-rewarding, sometimes-uneasy relationship with Will is only one part of a constellation of things Lucy learns about herself in this novel.” – IMAGE update


A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013

A Kirkus Best Book of 2013

An ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, 2014

Junior Library Guild Selection, Spring 2013

A Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book, 2013

Kids’ Indie Next Pick, Summer 2013

A Favorite Read of 2013 at School Library Journal’s A Chair, A Fireplace, a Tea Cozy blog


Hardcover, Ebook, audiobook, paperback

Foreign Editions: French, Japanese, Korean

Covers: French edition (Bayard Presse) & UK Edition (Usborne)




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