Published by Hachette Australia on June 12, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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An emotionally charged story about the power of dreams, and how passion can turn to obsession.
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music - because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.
When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?
Thrilling and powerfully written, this is an explosive debut for YA readers which tackles the dark topic of domestic abuse in an ultimately hopeful tale.
It’s always hard to read a book that you’ve been anticipating for so long, especially one written by one of your friends, but it’s safe to say that A Thousand Perfect notes absolutely and completely took my heart into its cruel, cold hands and crushed it. It’s always hard to separate the art from the author, especially when you know them so well, but I’m going to try and objectively review this book below, so bear with me.
Through its quirky descriptions and pages wrought with emotion, fury and passion, we learn about a prodigy called Beck who is being forced to play the piano by his abusive mother, the Maestro. His intense hate for the piano is only offset by his bright, true love for his 5 year old sister Joey, which is why he continues to play. While there are definitely beautiful, evocative descriptions of classical music, of sibling love, of a whimsical, happy girl called August, A Thousand Perfect Notes is not an easy book to read, because of the visceral domestic abuse that Beck and Joey endure under their brutal, cruel mother. The physical descriptions aren’t for the faint-hearted, there’s lots of blood, pain and torture.
With the Maestro, it was easy to picture a prodigious German pianist who had her talent taken away from her. It’s easy to picture her cold, calculated rage, and the way she forces her children to do her bidding. Their empty house populated by a piano and no other furnishings, only supplemented by the lack of food and sustenance, paints a harsh, dark picture of Beck and his surroundings. I thought “how could a mother hate her children so much, and treat them so badly?” but then we remember the cruelty of this world, that sometimes these villains do exist.
When you think about someone who has been hated, forced and abused all his life, it’s also easy to picture Beck, silent, brooding and scared as he navigates through life. You can see the evidence of the abuse through his everyday thoughts and the fear which he carries through his life. All he wants to do is believe there is good in this world, that maybe there’s a tiny part of his mother who loves him, that one day her cruel insults will result in praise, so he continues to strive for her affection. Beck deserves chocolate, cake and all the hugs and puppies in the world and my heart broke for him.
She’ll know how much he hates music. How scared of it he is. How it controls his life.
The darkness in the story is tempered by August, in all of her cheerful, hippy glory, who brightens the days with her promises of paleo cake and chocolate and warm fuzzy house filled with rescue dogs. Her smiles, friendship, non-judgement and promising nothing but warmth and good things is exactly what Beck needs, and I loved how their friendship slowly evolves. I loved what August brought to the story and to Beck’s life. There were also a few parts of the story that felt like a bit of a stretch, like when August’s parents ignored Beck’s injuries.
You are my disease. You will kill me with your disgrace. But it will never happen again, will it?
A Thousand Perfect Notes is a story of love gone wrong and of finding your passion and life’s goal taken away from you. It’s a dark story of abuse, of forcing your dream upon your children and blaming them for everything you’ve lost in life. It’s also a story of an abused boy, clawing out his way in the world from the controlling clutches of his mother and discovering who he is. It’s such a beautiful, emotional story that had me crying from its very last words.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy!
A Thousand Perfect Notes is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99 or from The Book Depository.
Trigger warnings: domestic abuse (physical and emotional), thoughts of self-harm, starvation, child abandonment
Q&A with Cait
1. Congratulations on your stunning debut novel! How do you feel now that your novel is out in the world?
Aww thank you! I honestly still keep glancing at my bookshelf, where A Thousand Perfect Notes now proudly sits, to remind myself that it’s real! I’ve been working towards this for 7 years and it’s actually happening?!? I can’t even.
2. Are you a piano player yourself? Did you have to do some research into classical music (and German) for this book?
Yes! I started playing piano in highschool, mostly self-taught, and then went on to get lessons and do a few lowkey performances. I tragically am no prodigy like Beck! I also had a really lovely experience with music (apart from performance anxiety!) so I send apologies to Beck for the horrible time he’s having with the piano. Oops. And despite my great-grandparents actually being German immigrants to Australia…I don’t speak German! I had some fantastic German friends pitch in to help me with the translations.
3. Can you talk about how you shaped Maestro as an evil villain that we can still somehow sympathise with?
Writing the Maestro was about balancing contrasts and opposites. Like on one hand, you see her doing everything to make her son a famous pianist. She’s also lost her ability to do the only thing she loves: play piano. So I think it’s possible to empathise with her sense of loss. But on the other hand, her obsession rules her to the point that she’ll physically abuse her son, and that’s both unforgivable and horrible.
4. I loved how you used food in the novel to demonstrate high/low points in the novel – what’s your favourite writing snack?
Food does play a pretty important part! But could anyone expect any less of me?! I actually can’t multitasking writing + eating, so I tend to take breaks to eat. And if anyone wants to leave me with chai and banana chocolate muffins, I’ll love them forever.
5. How did you go with writing the more difficult scenes of abuse in the novel?
With many many rewrites to get the balance of fear and tension right, that’s for sure. There are a lot of dark themes in my book and I wanted to write them with care and respect, but also be realistic about the after-affects. Beck carries bruises on his skin and on his soul, and it was important to show how both affected him. Beck’s pain is our pain — which makes it even more of a relief when his triumphs are also ours.
6. Is a Thousand Perfect Notes a standalone – will we ever get a sequel?
It is a standalone! However my next book is set in the same world, so you will see cameos of Beck and August in the background.
7. Can you tell us what we can expect from your next book?
The Boy Who Steals Houses is out in April 2019 and it will have more of the same bittersweet darkness! It’s about a homeless boy who sneaks into the lives of a big, loveable family, so lots of shenanigans ensue. There’s plenty of cake and heartbreak (the perfect combination). But it’s also about lonely boys making bad decisions soooo…prepare your feels to be run over by a semi-truck again.
8. How do you balance writing with blogging?
Mostly I just lie on the carpet and shriek a bit. It doesn’t actually work?? Very confused. So the other way I handle it is scheduling up some blog posts and then diving into writing without distractions for a while. I also find blogging is a fun and lighthearted break! I can throw around memes and rainbows and banter before heading back to my books where all my characters are most definitely crying.
1. Chocolate or cake? Caaaaaake!
2. Classical or rock? Classical!
3. Dragons or puppies? JEANN. THIS IS RUDE. I must have them all.
4. Reading or writing? #CrisisIntensifies (I need both to exist!)
5. Winter or summer? Summer!
A very big thank you to Cait for answering these questions for my blog!
About the Author
C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her piano and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast. She blogs at paperfury.com.