Piano prodigy Anna Stern is used to having all eyes on her.
Welcome to the September 8th stop on the blog tour for Chasing Harmony by Melanie Bell with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, more reviews & guest posts, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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About the Book
by Melanie Bell
Published 19 July 2022
Genre: LGBTQIA+ YA Fiction
Page Count: 304
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
A refreshing YA debut from Canadian author Melanie Bell, perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Becky Albertalli, and Nina LaCour.
Melanie Bell has created a compelling coming-of-age story, featuring a bisexual protagonist, for those that can relate to the search for untapped potential. Told in alternating timelines on Prince Edward Island and Vancouver, Chasing Harmony reminds us of the exhilarating feeling that comes with hearing your heart’s song.
Piano prodigy Anna Stern is used to having all eyes on her. As she becomes a teenager, Anna struggles to find her identity without the soundtrack of sonatas and concertos. There’s also the worry that comes with the crushing expectations of her musical gift and her parents’ imploding marriage.
Anna finds refuge in her best friend, Liss, who is full of magic and escape plans. However, now their relationship is changing and Anna is starting to fall for her. Adding to the complicated status is new kid Darien, who is always vying for Anna’s attention.
As the haunting spectre of burnout lurks close by, an upcoming performance with Liss will determine both of their futures. With everything building to a crescendo, what follows is an authentic life in the making.
Liss’s violin, marbleized wood luminous as eyes. Her foot’s proximity. Liss outshining her. An inch between sole and polished body. Liss so satisfied. Hesitation. Liss’s lips touching her, Liss’s gifts untouchable. Impact before she realizes there’s been an impact. Hideous cracking sounds. Again, again, encore.
There is a sense of cold grandeur in Anna’s eyes. In the keys of every piano are salamanders, scorpions, grass snakes, rats. Anna is made of piano keys. The violin is on the floor and
the pinchy flat of her right foot is through it and touching the uncolorful speckles. The music room has windows but they’re high and hard to see through. Anna’s pulse is doubled where the veins stick out. Beethoven is a musical negative. Everyone had loved them. Past is a negative sometimes set to music. The violin is in two main pieces with a hole scrunched in the middle and assorted splinters. The violin is back in the case on the shelf. It has a name on it. Adrenalin has Anna’s veins alight. Liss now owns two halves of a violin. The splinters would be hers too but Anna has picked them up and thrown them on top of the lint and pizza box in the garbage. A piano is too big to stomp through. Love? She shudders. A splinter is lodged in Anna’s index finger just below the nail.
My Rating: 3.5 ⭐⭐⭐
I was granted complimentary access to Chasing Harmony as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Goddess Fish Promotions. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Chasing Harmony is a dual timeline coming of age sort of story about a musical prodigy named Anna. She has lived in both BC and PEI (Canadian provinces,) her parents are divorced in the teen (older) timeline, and her best friend Liss has a lot of existential thoughts about adoption.
I wasn’t really sure where this was going at first. It just seemed like a stream of jumbled biographical scenes about a music student until quite far into the book Anna discovers her mother’s porn stash. It’s a teen discovers sex and sexual partners and pushes everything else to the backburner until something gives story.
This book is billed as an LGBTQIA+ story and there are indeed non-cis/het relationships present in the book, but I must point out that this female protagonist is all about the boys in her class for most of the book once the plot starts.
I have mixed feelings about the narrative style and the writing on this one. On one hand, the teen experience comes forward so well. The narrative voice IS a 16 year old girl in all her inexperienced naivete. On the other hand, so is the younger timeline. They are both 16 year old girls, even though one is 5. The narrative voice is so similar, and transitions are sometimes so vague, that at one point I only realized we had left BC and hopped to PEI when one character referred to another as “you people from away,” which is a very Atlantic Canada island culture thing to say. (Seriously, I’m a mainlander living in Newfoundland and I hear it all the time. Most people don’t mean anything by it but after over a decade, a marriage and a child, it’s a hurtful reminder that to some extent I’m still not seen as belonging here. And I happen to be from BC.)
Similar to the narrative voice, the quality of the prose in general is also very 16 year old girl. I can’t decide if it was a stylistic choice to enhance the narrative voice or not, but a lot of the scenery building description stuff that some readers might gloss over feels like the extended metaphor sort of on the nose things I included in my English Honours essays in grade 10. There’s a scene that comes to mind where Anna is learning to drive and she’s distracted by the boy situation and the road signs seem to be warning her about more than just the rules of the road. I wrote an extended metaphor essay at this character’s age that was about finding friendship and road signs seen from a bus were calling out the phases of that journey. It felt the same.
Overall I think this book does an excellent job of conveying what it’s like to be a teenage girl discovering certain adult things in life and learning to find balance between that and other responsibilities. I think a lot of teen girl readers would find Anna relatable. I do feel the need to warn potential readers and their parents/guardians that there is very detailed description of porn and sexual fantasies.
About the Author
Melanie Bell is a Canadian multi-genre writer living in the UK. Her books include a short story collection,Dream Signs, a nonfiction title, The Modern Enneagram, and the YA novel Chasing Harmony. She has written for several publications including Contrary, Cicada, The Fiddlehead, and Huffington Post. She loves music, art, and nature, and aspires to see as much of the world as she can.
Melanie Bell will award a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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