Sunday, April 5, 2009

Strings Attached

Ten years ago a customer at the University Book Store asked me to recommend a novel for a teenage girl who was a musician. A YA book featuring a musician sounded like an easy request. So many teenagers are musicians, after all. Somehow, though, the search sputtered. There may even have been a reference to Little Women--Beth played the piano!--in my desperation.

Faced with that request today (booksellers and librarians always remember the ones that got away), I would now have two great novels to recommend. Is a duet enough to constitute a new girl-who-plays-strings mini-genre?

Violinist Patti Yoon focuses on being Good Enough--good enough to get into HarvardYalePrinceton, the pinnacle of her Korean-born parents' dreams. Patti sacrifices normal teenage fun for homework, violin, and church, until she decides to rebel--just a bit--and figure out what she really wants out of life. Good Enough is a Korean-American story, with the bi bim bap and bulgogi recipes to prove it, but it has a universal appeal for smart teenagers.

In If I Stay, seventeen-year-old Mia's cello *is* a rebellion, since her parents are laid-back rock music listeners. Mia's life is all about normal teenage fun, plus cello, until the day her life is suddenly only about IVs, tubes, and the four walls of her room in the ICU. Her parents' music, her boyfriend's band music, Mia's own classical favorites, all become a soundtrack as she hovers between life and death. If the "it's the next Twilight!" buzz around If I Stay turns you off, know that this is a small, powerful story about family, with real characters and an Oregon setting that will ring true to natives.

Musicians or not, teenage girls will really like reading about both Patti and Mia.

More novels about teenage musicians (via NoveList):
Bowler, Tim. Firmament.
Brooks, Bruce. Midnight Hour Encores.
Frank, Lucy. Lucky Stars.
Gilbert, Barbara Snow. Broken Chords.
Going, K. L. Fat Kid Rules the World.
Hughes, Mark Peter. Lemonade Mouth.
Okimoto, Jean Davies. Talent Night.
Simmons, Michael. Vandal.
Strasser, Todd. Rock 'n' Roll Nights.
Thesman, Jean. Cattail Moon.
Townley, Roderick. Sky.


Wendy said...

The other one that comes to mind right away, though it's probably too old-fashioned for most teenagers, is The Small Rain by Madeleine L'Engle--did you mention it to the customer? I also thought of Middle School Blues by Lou Kassem for tweens (the narrator plays the saxophone in the school band; there's a great audition scene), but that, of course, is long out of print and will probably stay there.

Elizabeth said...

The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan is a good one.

mamster said...

I have three comments:

1. Ha ha, you're a blogger.

2. I would bet money that _Fat Kid Rules the World_ is the best book on that list, because it is one of the best books ever.

3. I've read both of the books you recommended, and I also liked them both. I would give the nod to _Good Enough_, because it has Korean recipes in it. Korean food rules the world.

Kelly said...

A Dream to Touch by Anne Emery. Marya Rose is child of Polish immigrants and is the concert mistress for the youth orchestra. Of course you can only find the book used at this point.