I got a complimentary copy of this novel from the pubisher in exchange for an honest review – thank you very much! That fact, of course, didn’t influence my opinion in any way.
Bret Killeen, 18, has just started college. He enrolled to Medical Science although Music might have seemed a much more appropriate choice of a course. He’s clearly very gifted, with absolute pitch and an uncanny ability to play every musical instrument he gets into his hands. His friend and roommate, Scott, calls him ‘Mozart’ – once he hears or reads a piece of music, he remembers it. Still Bret’s late father had his heart set on Business or Science as the only roads to success his son should follow. Also his uncle, Galan, wishes Bret does something practical and lucrative in the future. Studying to be a doctor fits the bill just fine but whose bill it really is?
Bret has a secret, something he doesn’t want his mother to know. Unfortunately his older brother, Drake, has managed to find out the truth and now he is constantly blackmailing Bret, making him, for example, do the less pleasant chores at his mother’s. What secret can be so ugly that Bret allows Drake to keep him on a very short leash?
In college Bret meets Nicole, a cello class student. She is the daughter of his Science tutor Kern Willoughby and Bret, clearly impressed by her looks and play, dares ask her out. They start to hang out together and play in a band. Still will his secret allow him to get closer to her? Will he stop following a path prescribed for him by people who just know better?
What I liked:
I love music and reading about musical geniuses, that’s why I accepted the book for review. I admit it – the novel was narrated in a readable way. It kept me interested almost to the very end and I had no problems with finishing it in two evenings. Bret’s story, even if not perfect, was a nice change from all these supernatural, life-or-death scenarios. It was also interesting that the author explained all those local Canadian expressions in the footnotes.
What I didn’t like:
In short – the whole Willoughby family.
Let me elaborate. They were all like dummies, present in the book just to provide support for the main lead, Bret. They felt unreal, almost had no life of their own, no friends or acquaintances, unless they shared them with Bret, no other interests than those common with Bret’s, so science or music.
Nicole had no female friends to talk to or spend her time with. Emil, her brother, seemed to exist just to provide challenges for Bret, play with him in their band and invite him out when Bret felt lonely. Then there was Kern Willoughby, the saintly surgeon and the head of that family. Not only he took a liking to Bret instantly, employing him in his lab even though he didn’t plan to employ anyone that year, but also he seemed to treat the boy better than his own kids and other interns, almost fawning on him. It was almost freakishly strange – in his eyes Bret simply could do no wrong and I did wonder why but no logical explanation of that liking was provided.
A case in question: one day Kern catches his daughter and Bret snogging in the lab – a sure sign they are seriously in love and sooner or later they’ll land in bed (or against the wall in a public bathroom – you know those teens). Being an acclaimed doctor he should know the best the dangers and pitfalls of teen hormones and the lure of spontaneous sexual intercourse at that age. He has known Bret just for several months, he liked him, maybe even thought of him as a perfect candidate for a son-in-law (preposterous in itself but such people exist) , but he couldn’t tell anything about his past or his family. What does he do? Believe it or not he does…nothing. Not. A. Thing. He doesn’t make sure that his only daughter is on the pill (Nicole is just 18 and she wants to continue her education so I suppose it’s obvious she is not ready to have family), he doesn’t have that STD and condoms talk with Bret, he doesn’t make the boy take all these tests (and, when I come to think about it, he could have made them very private and very comfy, as one of hospital honchos and an owner of a private med lab).
Then he stumbles on Nicole and Bret sleeping together under his own roof. A bit late for a talk of any kind, I know, but still he should have reacted somehow , after all better late than never. What does Kern do? Once again – nothing. Poor, sensitive, downtrodden Bret might feel hurt so it’s all sunshine and daisies. Kern is the most thoughtless father I have ever known, not afraid his daughter might get pregnant or infected or both, sleeping with a boy nobody knows anything about. Or maybe Dr. Willoughby has invented a magic potion preventing any sex-related troubles and has slipped it secretly to Nicole and to Bret when nobody was looking? Who knows…
The author definitely has potential but I wasn’t especially impressed by her first novel. Sorry.