Thursday, April 3, 2008

Book Review: Mountain Solo

Mountain Solo by Jeanette Ingold is an easy read for grades 7 to 10, although it may not hold the interest of older teens in this age bracket. The story is about Tess, a 16 year old virtuoso violinist who attends a school for the performing arts in New York City. A child prodigy, Tess's mom had directed and micro-managed her development and career as violinist. However, when Tess bombs her concert debut in Germany, she flees to her dad's home in Montana. During her stay with her dad and his new family, Tess is drawn into her stepmother's archaelogical investigation of Fredrick Bottner's homestead. Bottner's story is interwoven with Tess's in separate chapters which makes for interesting reading. The time away from the stresses of developing her musical career help Tess re-evaluate her career and what happened in Germany. Away from the pressures of concert performances, Tess can take the time to re-evaluate her life.

On the whole, this is an interesting story and I enjoyed the separate chapters focusing on Tess in the present, Tessie as a young girl, and Fredrick Bottner. We never learn the complete story of Frederick Bottner which makes this novel somewhat unsatisfying. But, we do see Tess reach some decisions of her own.
Some aspects of the story stretch the envelope of believability, for example, Tess and Ben skipping school to wander around New York City. One wonders why it took the school so long to figure things out. Tess's mother is a generally unlikeable character - a controlling "music mom" who is bent on her daughter becoming a virtuoso and who destroys her marriage for the sake of Tess's career. This aspect of her character, I found particularly annoying. In contrast, Tess's dad is developed as a likeable, reasonable man who is genuinely concerned for his daughter.

Overall, this book will be enjoyed by younger teen readers who have an interest in music and the performing arts.