Four Seasons: A Novel in Four Movements by Jane Breskin Zalben

Wednesday April 27, 2011

Four Seasons: A Novel in Four Movements 
by Jane Breskin Zalben
February 8, 2011
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Goodreads summary: Allegra Katz has been playing piano since she was four. But these aren't just any piano lessons. She studies at the Julliard School in New York, where careers are being formed—or not.

Between strict practice schedules, music classes, and regular school, Ally doesn't have time for much else. Sometimes she wishes she could break free, but she's never known any other way. Her parents—a professional violinist and a singer—would kill her if they knew she was thinking about quitting piano, especially her mother.

So she keeps on going, but as the months go by, she begins to ask herself, does she even love the piano? Why does she play? And how much longer can she stand the pressure before she breaks?

Pontifications... If you haven't seen it by now you must Google Emily Bear on the Ellen show right now. This tiny, little, cute-as-a-button six-year-old is a crazy, insane, Mozart-like piano prodigy! I can't imagine having that kind of talent and I also can't imagine the kind of pressure that undoubtedly goes along with it.  

Ally must practice four hours a day as instructed by her hardcore piano teacher Miss Pringle if she is to ever live up to the standards of the infamous Julliard School. Miss Pringle isn't what one would call "compassionate" and compliments aren't really her thing. Ally's parents are loving but goal-oriented. Being musicians themselves Ally has never known anything different. When the pangs and cravings of living a more "normal" teenage life start to make way into Ally's thoughts she starts to lose the zest she once had for playing the piano.

I think this story is a realistic depiction of what life must be like for gifted students like Ally. The grueling practice and expectations are not glossed over and Ally really shows the stress of all the pressure she is under. The fact that she wants to hang out with her friends more and experience her first crush on boy just makes her more real and likable. 

I really enjoyed this book and Ally is a great character. Overall the story is about a girl who has everything going for her including the sense enough to know that following your heart is always the right decision.

Appropriate for ages 10 and up.