cover image Four Seasons

Four Seasons

Jane Breskin Zalben, Knopf, $15.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-375-86222-9

Divided by the seasons of the year, like Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, this coming-of-age novel traces a year in the life of a promising young pianist enrolled in a prestigious program at Juilliard. Ally, the daughter of a famous violinist and a former opera singer who now sings in New York City bars, has been playing piano since she was four. Now at age 12, she's having doubts about whether she wants to continue on the arduous path to become a great musician. Zalben (Leap) insightfully conveys her heroine's conflicting feelings about music—she regrets not having the time and freedom to pursue other interests and talents, like math, or spend time with her nonmusician friends—and what Ally is up against, dealing with harsh criticism from her compassionless teacher and fearing her parents' reactions if she quits piano. Offering an insider's peek at the competitive world of gifted young performers, where the pressure to be perfect can become all-consuming, this intimate story shows how one middle schooler survives by listening to her heart. Ages 10–up. (Feb.)