Cover image for Broken chords
Broken chords
Gilbert, Barbara Snow, 1954-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Arden, N.C. : Front Street, [1998]

Physical Description:
188 pages ; 22 cm
While practicing relentlessly for an important competition, seventeen-year-old Clara wonders if she has the dedication to pursue a career as a concert pianist.
Reading Level:
710 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 6.0 45026.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.6 11 Quiz: 23866 Guided reading level: NR.
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At seventeen, Clara Lorenzo seems to have everything--brains, beauty, and an extraordinary talent for the piano. Her parents have provided her with the finest teacher and rearranged their lives to nurture Clara's genius, and Clara has worked hard--to the point of obsession--to develop her talent. But Clara's many gifts and her obsessive practicing have hidden the truth, a truth so startling that it takes an important piano competition, the confusions of first love, and a mysterious Russianfolktale for Clara to begin to understand. By the time she fully sees her predicament, events have taken on a powerful momentum of their own. Winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, Broken Chords is a romance acted out in the highly charged world of an internationally renowned piano competition. Told with suspense, artistry, and an appreciation of the ever-tightening pressures that hold Clara captive, Barbara Snow Gilbert weaves the themes of self-awareness, family bonds, and courage in a classic coming-of-age story that is as lyrical as the music at its heart.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8^-12. At 17, Clara seems bound for glory as a concert pianist, fulfilling the dreams and expectations of her musician parents and her extraordinary teacher, who have encouraged her since her emergence as a child prodigy. Now she is one of five finalists in a prestigious international competition for a place at the Juilliard. She could win. But as the pressure mounts in the final weeks of preparation, Clara has a crisis: does she want to give up everything else, to practice all day and perform all night for the rest of her life? And what about the young man she loves, who is her main competitor? With lyricism and passion, Gilbert creates the beauty and obsession of Clara's music world; but readers will recognize that there are people like Clara in many areas, including sports and theater, where the gifted young person, lured by celebrity, pushed by parents, and in love with her art, desperately wants to succeed, but at what cost? The second half of the book holds you spellbound as tension builds and builds to the climax of the competition. Clara wants to win, we want her to win, and yet. . . . The great pleasure of this book is that the complexity is not resolved. There are surprises all along the way. It is different for each individual. Clara's Russian teacher sacrificed everything for her music; she left home, family, lover. Can Clara do that? Does she want to? In a sense Clara does leave home when she knows what she wants to do. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers do not have to understand Bach or Rachmaninoff to appreciate the conflicts plaguing 17-year-old Clara, a gifted pianist favored to win the prestigious Nicklaus competition. Her mother, who conducts the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and her father, once a baritone opera star, have great aspirations for their virtuoso pianist daughter; the question is, does she have the same aspirations? Gilbert (Stone Water) divides the story into three "movements" that trace Clara's emerging doubts about becoming a performing artist. The turning point comes when a wrist injury keeps her away from the piano for two weeks. During this "interval," Clara gets her first taste of how life would be without her daily three-hour practice sessionsÄshe attends a football game, spends time with friends at McDonald's and (strangely) rehearses ballet. The climax comes on the final day of the prize competition, when the idea of giving up music for good begins to take hold. The ending of the book borders on hokey, and the characterizations of Clara's accompanying players are painted with broad strokes: her Russian piano teacher, the stage mother and love interest Marshall Hammonds Lawrence, a handsome boy from a poor background who possesses a passion for music that Clara lacks. The strength of the novel lies not in the too-neatly orchestrated plot, but rather in the heroine's in-depth exploration of what she truly wants for herself. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Clara has been studying piano since she was a youngster, and her musician parents have set their sights on a concert career for their daughter, a decision made without her input. Now Clara is 17 and is feverishly preparing for a prestigious competition. Winning would insure her start as a professional concert pianist, yet it is not clear that this is what she wants. Four years earlier, her piano teacher intervened on her behalf to convince Clara's mother to allow the girl to study ballet as well. Now, two weeks before the piano competition, a hand injury forces her to give up practice for a few days, thus giving her time to think about things that have been bothering her all along. Much of the story is predictable, although there are a few surprises at the end. Clara is the best-drawn character; most of the others are stereotypical. Her mother, a famous conductor whom Clara refers to sarcastically as Maestra, is sternly focused on her daughter's musical future. Her father is a bit more understanding. Her little brother envies the attention Clara gets. Tashi, Clara's piano teacher, is the paragon of understanding and patience. A subplot involving a romance between Clara and another music student is awkward. Though the issue Gilbert deals with is an important one for young adults, the story is not particularly compelling.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.