It is Utah’s good fortune that author Sara Zarr, San Francisco native and 2007 National Book Award Finalist, chooses to live and write in Salt Lake City. Zarr’s latest book, The Lucy Variations, focuses on the life of 16-year-old Lucy, who has endured the extreme pressure placed on her by family throughout a childhood as a promising concert pianist, but has since walked away from piano altogether. The story starts with the death of a cold and clinical piano teacher. This death serves as the pivotal start to a transformation and rekindling of Lucy’s desire to play the piano—a variation on the theme of self-discovery. The book examines the space between talent and practice, family expectations and personal aspirations, and the close relationship between teachers and students.

Zarr uses the language of classical and modern music to talk about the beauty in the world. The use of music provides structure to the plot as well as emotional lift to the characters. By reconnecting with music, Lucy also reconnects with her family and friends. It helps her reenter the world, finding that, “the microsecond between anticipation and full-born joy,” can be enough to get her through the tough times.

The Lucy Variations would be a perfect gift for someone who is going through a personal transformation; it’s an intriguing look at how one can endure and find their own way, even after they feel like they've lost everything. For more coming-of-age stories, check out these titles from The City Library:

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Brooke Young is the Teen Services Manager at Salt Lake City Public Library. To find more info on The City Library's programs and services, visit