When Dane Rossi, a young English pianist substitute-teaching Bea’s music-appreciation class, hears Bea play, he insists she could have a career as a concert pianist and urges her to apply to his alma mater, Juilliard, even as their intense, mutual attraction complicates her choices.
Bea’s mother went to Juilliard and also dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, but she died giving birth to Bea, who’s sure her father and older brother hold her responsible. Entirely self-taught, Bea’s kept her dreams secret. Now, blossoming under Dane’s guidance, she accepts his offer to introduce her to his Juilliard mentor, a great pianist. But when her relationship with Dane takes a turn toward intimacy on their trip to New York, she’s both confused and thrilled. The story’s strongest when it focuses on this relationship, honoring its complexity and neither oversimplifying it nor demonizing either of them. While that’s deftly handled, other plot points strain credulity. Readers will have difficulty buying Bea’s near perfection as a classical pianist given that her only instruction has been “from books and online and stuff.” After all, a crucial element of classical musical training is feedback from teachers on student performance. While Bea’s family is underdeveloped, her deep guilt at having been born seems more than a tad overblown.
A compassionate but clearsighted look at student-teacher liaisons, somewhat diminished by an over-the-top plot setup. (Fiction. 14-18)