Full disclosure: after months of reading angsty man-books, it’s been kind of fun to read some girlier YA. Not that all YA is girly, and not that girly is bad by any means, but still: after all the masculinity crisis issues I’ve faced down, it’s nice to take a break and deal with some less high-stakes drama. But by all means, spare me from the lovey-dovey stuff. Ick. Thankfully, Broken Chords managed to balance that out nicely and told a very compelling story.
Clara Alexander Lorenzo is a seventeen-year-old piano prodigy. She has an opera singer for a father, and a conductor for her mother: thus, her life is soaked in music. Expectations are high as she enters a student-competition: if she wins, she gains a scholarship to Julliard, and thus fulfills the dreams of her parents. And yet, this seemingly perfect piano princess questions everything about herself and her own skills when she auditions for a bit part in her ballet’s production of The Nutcracker and when she hears her major competitor play. Obviously, this competitor is a very cute boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Obviously. Less obvious to me was how the story would resolve, and while it did, it wasn’t as neat and packaged as a Nicholas Sparks rom-dram. So, points to Ms. Gilbert for that.
I took piano lessons for something like ten years (maybe less? It wasn’t consistent, since I skipped semesters of lessons in college), and while I’m super rusty now, I gravitate towards it as my instrument of choice. It was fun to read a story about a fellow pianist, and it also made me glad that Clara’s life is not mine. I have a lot more free time, and I enjoy plunking out my simple tunes without the fear of having to please a crazy pageant mother (and Clara’s makes a most excellent villain–because mothers are anathema in the YA world. Obviously).
Despite some of the tropes that Ms. Gilbert lets herself indulge in, Broken Chords is an interesting and highly enjoyable read. Clara is a sympathetic and evocative character without being an empty-headed pushover (HEM HEM! Bella Swan) or a neurotic shrew (almost every TV show with a main female character). And because it’s YA, it’s a super quick read. And that is by all means a great thing.