Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book review: Want by Stephanie Lawton

Title: Want
Author: Stephanie Lawton
Genre: Southern Fiction, Romance, Upper YA
Format: paperback and ebook
Expected publication: June 7th 2012 by InkSpell Publishing

Blurb: Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town where appearance is everything and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche to help her.
She can’t understand why he suddenly gave up Boston’s music scene to return to the South. He doesn’t know her life depends on escaping it. Julianne must face down madness from without, just as it threatens from within. Isaac must resist an inappropriate attraction, but an indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball—the pinnacle event for Mobile’s elite—forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past.

My thoughts: Music, romance, mystery, all packaged together with a visually stunning cover. When I first read the blurb for Want, I figured what more could I ask for? After reading this book in one mandatory because I have to see what happens next sitting, I realized this contemporary upper YA was much more than what the blurb describes. So much more.
"If you want vampires and werewolves, faeries, fallen angels or zombies, you won’t find them here. I know a real-life monster. She drains the life out of me and tears at my flesh with words and fingernails that sink deeper than fangs ever could. I’m not her only victim, just her favorite."
Whoa. I read that opening paragraph and knew this was going to be an intense read. Julianne spoke to me with her honesty and I quickly invested in her character's passion for music, her spunk, her desire to leave the small confines of Southern town living along with a troublesome mother for college life at a prestigious music school. Her mother, already exhibiting strange behavoir, worsens when Juli's older brother R.J. leaves for college the year before. In that time frame she has to deal with her mother's erratic outbursts, usually all alone since her lawyer father works a lot.

After her beloved music teacher, Mr. Cline, suffers a stroke, he tells Juli not to worry. He has procured another music instructor for her. When Issac Laroche enters her studio he is nothing like she expected. Handsome, talented, a graduate of the New England Conservatory--the same school she is preparing for a shot at auditioning to--he seems to stand for everything she aspires to be. Or maybe not. Moody, aloof, cold, the temperamental artist is not always easy to get along with and there are murmurs of gossip Juli catches hold of. 

Still, Juli finds herself attracted to Issac and he occasionally shows signs of letting her in. When he introduces her to some of his college friends who show up in Mobile, Alabama for a visit, she finds the personable Dave charming. Dave is also accomplished and wants to her her play a piece by Rachmaninoff, which she does, and he is impressed. Could it be her new teacher is actually interested in her? Or is this seventeen year old girl only fooling herself?

Want is an emotionally complex and layered novel. Juli has so much to contend with--her abusive mother to cutting herself just to be able to feel or be in charge, while conforming to the standards of upper class Southern society--when Issac enters her life she sees a chance at being desired for herself and appreciated for her talent. This was a refreshingly different contemporary and I enjoyed all of it: from the Southern setting to the role of music and how it was a way for Juli to express herself but also a crutch to hide from the world. I became a cheerleader for Juli, rooting her on through the various paths and bumps her life takes. Watching her make mistakes, get knocked down, perservere, only to have her heart broken then see her determined spirit take over made Juli an incredibly real character.

Stephanie Lawton's writing was fluid, poignant, and the pacing never wavered. Even the secondary characters, especially Dave, were well crafted. The one drawback I felt when reading were the ages of Issac and Dave. They were men at 27-29 years of age and Juli was 17. Though the age difference was mentioned I still felt iffy with the prospect of their relationships with a teen (until the ending which I thought the author concluded well enough to silence my concern).

Want was a gripping emotional rollercoaster ride that had me laughing, crying, cringing and hoping Juli would finally attain what she wanted out of life. I have finally found a satisfying, realistic ending that made me smile. I loved it!

Favorite excerpt:
“Fine! If you know so much, then show me. You’ve been harping at me for weeks, but I don’t know what you want. ‘It needs color. Add some color.’ What does that even mean?”

I slam down the keyboard cover and grip the smooth, mahogany lid. I sink my fingernails into the finish. It feels good to ruin something so perfect and beautiful. I’ve also ruined my eager-to-please facade. As it falls away, I think of how disappointed Mama would be.

“I don’t know what you’re asking, and you won’t demonstrate. Why? It’s not because I haven’t asked.”

“Fine. Move over.”

My retort dies on an exhale. I fling back the bench and stomp over to the loveseat, throw myself down and cross my arms over my chest. Yes, I’m childish. I was ready for a fight and didn’t expect him to give in so easily. He adjusts the bench a good foot back from where I had it.

He closes his eyes and begins, immediately immersed in the piece with the opening low roll.

And it’s magic.

The keys and fingerings are the same ones I play; the dynamics are similar, but the song itself, its coloring is different in every way—every nuance, every pause, every touch. He leans back on the seat, fingers upright and stiff, wrists lifted; then he leans in, presses deeper into the keys, rocks the piano’s frame with the pedal.

His eyelashes glow in the sunlight streaming in from the southern window. Dust motes float in the air, dancing it seems to the quiet energy of his music. I feel his sadness now more than ever. He says much, much more through the piano than he ever does with his spare words.

Perhaps this is why he never wants to play for me; he knows I’ll sense whatever it is he doesn’t want to let out. It’s true—there’s something he’s hiding behind the teacher’s critiques and praise.
I leave my body then, transported into the world of heartbreak he creates with his fingertips. I’m suspended in air just like the dust motes, not even aware of breath or heartbeat. For once, I feel…whole? Whatever this is, I want to hold onto it as long as I can."

Rating: 5 Loved it!

Cover comment: Gorgeous and is representative of the story.

Book source: Received from touring company for my totally honest review during a book tour.


  1. Great review for a fantastic book! Well deserved praise!!!

  2. Wow! I couldn't possibly ask for a better review! Thanks so much for your thorough look at Want, and I'm glad you connected with it. xoxo