Title: Private Lessons
Author: Cynthia Salaysay
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: May 12th
In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes.
After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father’s death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection.
Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.
This was just boring. The writing and events of the book felt very surface level. The subjects being talked about were very serious and could have been poignant, but everything fell flat.
I didn’t feel any vulnerability in Claire. She was just walking through the motions—felt very monotonous. Obviously a teacher/student relationship is NEVER okay, but I felt like it needed to be developed more. It kind of came out of nowhere. There was so much talk about Paul (the teacher) was so manipulative and controlling, but I didn’t see that at all. I think there should have been tension building as the story progressed, with the climax being the specific act that happened between Claire and Paul. Then what follows would be the fallout and Claire processing the aftermath.
I think the author wrote some beautiful prose when describing Claire’s connection with music and the piano—it felt very personal. Unfortunately, the story was disorganized and lacked any depth.
ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.