Night Music

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

The magic of this book is how music not just a prop to connect the characters, it is a character and it has its own magic besides everything. The fact that I’m in no way musically inclined made this experience unique for me.

“It’s love.” Oscar peered at the ceiling again. “Most classical music is. Not all, but most. You know…” He rolled over to face me. “I can appreciate all kinds of music, I really can. I think there’s something there. But hip-hop, pop, it speaks to front, you know? It’s the face you show to the world, what you want to project. Classical speaks right to what you’re feeling. What you long for.”
Ruby is a very unique character and her journey of finding herself is very relatable – well… except the music part! She was born and raised in an musical environment and everyone in her family is a musician… except her. She’s not gifted and her whole journey in this story is to find her place in the world.

Oscar, on the other hand, breathes music. He is music. And the way that is described in the book is beautiful. His relationship with Ruby is as complicated as understanding a melody, and once you get it… oh it’s beautiful.

This book also talks about the racism in the world, but mostly in the music environment. We can see that most, if not all, musicians are white or north asians – and the donors and those in high hierarchy are always using Oscar’s race as a form of manipulation. The book shows the struggles of POC navigating through the music world and finding their place without being manipulated or used as a prop, and it does in a way that is no tacky. I’m a white person (although latina, my family is mostly from Italians that emigrated to Brazil… so I’m very “european” looking) and in no way I can understand the struggles POC, but I could understand what was presented and I felt very sad about the whole thing…

Overall this book was an amazing read. I recommend this for everyone – musically inclined or not.
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I’ve gone on record to say, controversially probably, that I am not one of those people who actively seeks out books about music. I LIKE music as much as the next guy but you’re more likely to find me listening to a podcast or audiobook at this point. I don’t find new music; my music selections are probably 80% from before I was born and 20% from the 90s and early 2000s (some outliers from my HS/college years too of course). So, you could say that a book surrounding classical music would not be up my alley. That is the exact reason I decided to join this blog tour. I’ve been itching to expand my reading horizons, even within my favorite genre of YA contemporary. I wanted to learn about the classical music world I knew virtually nothing about. On top of that, I ADORED the other book by Jenn Marie Thorne that I read – The Wrong Side of Right – and was due for another of her stories.

This book is about Ruby, one member of a very famous family in the classical music world, right after she decides that this world is not necessarily for her. She doesn’t feel talented enough, or that she fits in it. Oscar is the latest prodigy to stay in her house (!!) and learn from her famous father. The two fall together pretty quickly, swept away into a summer of music and attraction. The description in the synopsis of “breezy writing” feels so accurate for this book; the writing was very distinct and made you feel like you were in the middle of a hazy, piano-filled summer. It’s hard to describe but it was quite nice!

I was out of my element when reading about all of the classical music references, but not in a way that pushed me out of the story at all. I kind of loved feeling like I got dropped into their lives and were observing them, without any explanation for what certain things meant. They had some fun scenes where they described what they were hearing in a conversational way, which was fun to read.

Ruby and Oscar are both trying to find their way, both in their personal lives (growing up, making normal decisions) and in their musical lives (how to deal with fame of varying types, what they want to do). I loved reading about how this summer was so huge for both of them, even if Ruby was the lead character and we were in her head. She was writing off the music world entirely when the book started and it was wonderful to see her start carving out her own path, even if it wasn’t fully defined yet.

Overall, this was such an engrossing story! It did take me a little while to settle into the book, the writing style, and the classical music references, but it ended up being so fascinating. The ending made me tear up and then cheer for Ruby.
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"Night Music" is a beautiful YA coming-of-age/romance that brings classical music front and center. Ruby Chertok is the youngest of our children born to musical parents and expected to be equally musical. Ruby desperately wants to live up to the family name, but it does not seem to be in the cards after her failed audition for the high-profile Amberley School of Music. However, Ruby feels the need for purpose- she is just not sure what that purpose is. 

It certainly doesn't help that the new music genius, another seventeen-year-old who is already composing, is moving into the basement apartment of the house where Ruby and her father reside so that her father can mentor him even more closely. Ruby feels that her life revolves around music, and it is impossible to get away from it in her house. As the eccentric musician-type, her father assumes Ruby will continue to clean up after him, get food, and make coffee- and Ruby does, without complaint. At the same time, she is getting to know the new prodigy, Oscar Bell, who is dealing with his own problems, including anxiety, composing, and that he is viewed for his race and not for who he actually is.

As Ruby spends time trying to find herself and fit within her eccentric family, we follow not only a fantastic coming-of-age journey but also a beautiful romance. Other major themes are racism and to a lesser extent, mental illness. I would have liked these to be handled in a bigger way, as they are important themes and not fully fleshed out in honor of the primary stories/themes. However, as is, they certainly give pause and can raise critical questions for the YA audience. 

I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy YA contemporary romance. Although described as a rom-com, I did not get this feeling from the book and felt that it carried an importance gravitas from which comedy was mostly lacking. However, I loved the book for what it was and think this is an important and beautiful read with a lovely musical back-drop.

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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