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In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes. After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s pra In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes. After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection. Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.


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In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes. After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s pra In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes. After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection. Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.

30 review for Private Lessons

  1. 5 out of 5

    sarah xoxo

    dnf at 50% I think this book is a classic case of it's not you, it's me. I went into this book with certain expectations in mind, and when they weren't realised I was disappointed. For some context, I have recently heard nothing but amazing things about the book 'My Dark Vanessa', which similarly tackles issues of a manipulative student-teacher relationship. However, because my library is shut, I was left with a yearning for a story I could not access. So when I stumbled upon this book on Netgalle dnf at 50% I think this book is a classic case of it's not you, it's me. I went into this book with certain expectations in mind, and when they weren't realised I was disappointed. For some context, I have recently heard nothing but amazing things about the book 'My Dark Vanessa', which similarly tackles issues of a manipulative student-teacher relationship. However, because my library is shut, I was left with a yearning for a story I could not access. So when I stumbled upon this book on Netgalley, I thought it could suffice as a YA equivalent. Private Lessons was marketed as a #MeToo book, featuring a young girl stuck in a manipulative relationship with her piano teacher. But I made it to 50% through the book with none of that occurring. I'm sure that premise still comes into play later, but I expected it to be a much larger aspect of the story than it was. I can only speak for the first half of the novel, but from what I read it felt more like a coming of age, self discovery teen type of deal. Of course there's nothing wrong with that- but again- wrong expectations from me. I found the beginning so slow. Nothing happened. I don't want to be overly critical of this book because it is a debut, and I didn't finish it. Similarly, I won't rate this book. The writing was well done, and had some nice prose at times particularly to do with music. I really appreciated the filipino rep too (ownvoices!), which came as a welcome surprise. I am sure many will enjoy this book, but unfortunately I wasn't one of them. "You can't expect love. It's elusive. I bet half the time, when people show you love, you barely even know it. And when you show love, they don't either. It's always masked. People aren't ready for it" Thank you to Candlewick Press for this ARC Release Date: 12 May 2020

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay is not a feel great sunshiny book. I don’t think the author intended it to be so. It’s a story about Claire, a piano protégé’ who falls prey to her instructor, Paul’s, machinations and for lack of a better word, is groomed to be taken advantage of. This is a painful story of a girl with deep insecurities whose emotions often run the gamut from sad and lonely, to jealous and harmful, both to herself and others. Claire isn’t always the most likeable of character Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay is not a feel great sunshiny book. I don’t think the author intended it to be so. It’s a story about Claire, a piano protégé’ who falls prey to her instructor, Paul’s, machinations and for lack of a better word, is groomed to be taken advantage of. This is a painful story of a girl with deep insecurities whose emotions often run the gamut from sad and lonely, to jealous and harmful, both to herself and others. Claire isn’t always the most likeable of characters but the important message, especially in this month of mental health awareness and the critical #metoo movement, is that she experiences depression and anxiety and yet, finds a way to heal herself despite the odds. While it’s a disturbing look at a predator who takes enormous pleasure in singling out young women, manipulating and abusing them, I think it also sends a positive message to women who’ve been victims of abuse. You are not alone and there is healing. Seeing Claire’s emotional wreckage all the way through to the end emphasizes just how important this message is. Thank you to Candlewick Press, Cynthia Salaysay, and MMB Tours for providing me with a DRC of Private Lessons in exchange for my honest review. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4

  3. 5 out of 5

    its.me.the.bibliophile

    **Thank you to NetGalley, the author, & the publisher for a chance to read & review an E-ARC of this novel!** This was a surprisingly intense read with important themes of overcoming hardships, grief, cultural differences, expectations that we put on ourselves, expectations from others, friendship, & the confusing world of relationships. Please find my extended feedback below...along with some spoilers (beware). . . . . . . . . . . . Things I Liked: -the highlights of music...I love music & as a former voc **Thank you to NetGalley, the author, & the publisher for a chance to read & review an E-ARC of this novel!** This was a surprisingly intense read with important themes of overcoming hardships, grief, cultural differences, expectations that we put on ourselves, expectations from others, friendship, & the confusing world of relationships. Please find my extended feedback below...along with some spoilers (beware). . . . . . . . . . . . Things I Liked: -the highlights of music...I love music & as a former vocal performer...it felt great to be back in a world of being moved by the musicality of practice & performance -the importance of family & friendship -the focus on culture...I always enjoy learning about different cultures & their nuances. I liked how Claire challenged people when they made assumptions about her culture. -how the novel showed Claire overcoming the sexual assault...she didn't let it define her. Things That Didn't Sit Quite Right With Me: -Paul is a gross slimeball that does not deserve to teach music or have interactions with vulnerable populations. -Claire's poor sense of self & low self-esteem...I understand that this was part of her self-image & is a realistic obstacle for many...I just hated how this made her vulnerable in a dangerous way. -I wish it had more of a hook or perhaps the pacing was different. It felt like a challenge for me to continue reading at times. Overall, I gave this novel 3 stars! It was a good read, but was lacking in certain areas for me. I think it would be a great read for those interested in reading novels with themes including music, culture, & relationships.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Toya

    The more time I've had to sit and think about this book, the more I realize that this one really just wasn't for me. It has to do more with the writing rather than the specific content. Claire is a first generation American with Filipino immigrants as parents. With that comes the pressure to be perfect: 4.0 GPA, excelling in piano, and gunning for scholarships to the best universities. Claire decides to hire an exclusive piano tutor to sharpen her skills in order to be more competitive. However, The more time I've had to sit and think about this book, the more I realize that this one really just wasn't for me. It has to do more with the writing rather than the specific content. Claire is a first generation American with Filipino immigrants as parents. With that comes the pressure to be perfect: 4.0 GPA, excelling in piano, and gunning for scholarships to the best universities. Claire decides to hire an exclusive piano tutor to sharpen her skills in order to be more competitive. However, the line between student and teacher is blurred, and Claire finds herself in the hands of a master manipulator. I think that this book is incredibly timely with the MeToo movement and addresses pertinent societal issues. However, I don't think this book does a great job of telling the actual story. This plot of this book is too slow for YA in my opinion. While I do think it is important for teens to have books that feature heavier content, a warning about the on-page rape needs to be included. The protagonist herself is just not a great character. Overall, she is uninteresting and unlikable and does nothing to keep the plot moving forward. We find ourselves meandering around her thoughts more than anything. In all honesty, it seems like much thought didn't go into her development. While I commend the author for tackling tough themes, I just don't think the overall objective was met with this one. Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shealea

    The tl;dr is that the book isn't terrible, but the main character certainly is. Full review to follow. I received a physical ARC of Private Lessons from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Candlewick Press!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    This story is about Claire and her struggles with losing a parent, her relationship with her very traditional Filipino mother, and about a new piano teacher in this complex student/teacher relationship. A great debut novel by Cynthia Salaysay and I enjoyed reading this book. Congratulations to a fellow nurse!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Interesting YA novel about a Filipino-American teenager, Claire, who is a whiz at playing the piano. In order to get into a good college, she becomes the student of a noted piano teacher. She hopes to win a prestigious piano competition so she can put that on her resume. The book follows her lessons, her naivete, her angst, her interactions with the fellow students at her high school with a bit of culture difference thrown in. I did NOT like the graphically described sexual bits. I did like the Interesting YA novel about a Filipino-American teenager, Claire, who is a whiz at playing the piano. In order to get into a good college, she becomes the student of a noted piano teacher. She hopes to win a prestigious piano competition so she can put that on her resume. The book follows her lessons, her naivete, her angst, her interactions with the fellow students at her high school with a bit of culture difference thrown in. I did NOT like the graphically described sexual bits. I did like the musical interpretations as put in the mouth of her teacher, Paul. I thank LibraryThing for a copy of the ARC.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yna the Mood Reader

    Looks like an intriguing read. Thank you so much Candlewick Press and Netgalley for the ARC. I'm very excited to read this Filipino #OwnVoices rep.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sofia S.

    Thank you to netgalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and please remember my review is not in any way a personal attack against the author. I review the book, not the author. You can read this review over on my blog. Wow... just wow. I never ever give one star to books. It's happened so rarely I'm honestly shocked, I so did not expect this. I will try to make my review short otherwise this will turn into a rant. But please beware tha Thank you to netgalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and please remember my review is not in any way a personal attack against the author. I review the book, not the author. You can read this review over on my blog. Wow... just wow. I never ever give one star to books. It's happened so rarely I'm honestly shocked, I so did not expect this. I will try to make my review short otherwise this will turn into a rant. But please beware that this book contains rape and quite graphic sex scenes, underage sex and a big (big) age gap , but also TW for death of a parent, smoking, drinking, and cancer. I could talk about this book forever but I'm going to put it as bullet points so that it doesn't get too long: - nothing happens in this book. the entire 320 pages of this – no spoilers – have a whole 3 or 4 main events that basically have no impact over anyone whatsoever and that the reader doesn't care about either. - the writing is mediocre - the main character is very annoying: a terrible daughter and a terrible friend. She also makes terrible choices. - the other characters are flat and inconsequential, except Paul who I liked at first but then... not, it just got weird (obviously) - the first half of this book was bad, but the second half? I quite frankly wish I would forget it - ew. just. teacher-student, 17-50ish year olds sexual bits, no thank you - even the same age sexual bits weren't nice. at. all - I didn't understand at all the point of making the main character "not care about piano" and making her "just do it for college applications" if that part is (1) not mentioned in the rest of the book (2) has nothing to do with anything that happens in the rest of the book and (3) make her care a lot about her piano classes and competitions - I was uncomfortable the whole entire time reading this. I have read a whole book after and I'm still not over it - I could talk more about the whole underage sex/rape thing but I (1) don't want to relive it because I quite frankly just want to forget it, (2) I don't want to give away any spoilers and most importantly (3) I would end up screaming in disgusted frustration forever. All in all, please don't read this. It will both be a waste of your time and will leave you scarred forever.

  10. 5 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of PRIVATE LESSONS by Cynthia Salaysay in exchange for my honest review.*** 2.5 STARS I loved the premise for PRIVATE LESSONS. The scenario of teacher grooming student happens too often. Paul’s methods of withholding praise was a particularly unkind manner of grooming Claire, so eager for his approval. Although I never took music lessons, I knew a piano teacher very much like Paul with his coldness and sexual inappropriateness. PRIVATE L ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of PRIVATE LESSONS by Cynthia Salaysay in exchange for my honest review.*** 2.5 STARS I loved the premise for PRIVATE LESSONS. The scenario of teacher grooming student happens too often. Paul’s methods of withholding praise was a particularly unkind manner of grooming Claire, so eager for his approval. Although I never took music lessons, I knew a piano teacher very much like Paul with his coldness and sexual inappropriateness. PRIVATE LESSONS is a better book than my enjoyment of it. Reading Cynthia Salaysay’s debut felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. I had difficulty connecting to Claire’s narration and her character and didn’t feel her supposed passion for piano. Did nobody tell her how to interview? Her blasé attitude and lackluster audition with Paul didn’t convince me she cared about piano. Claire acted like her mom could simply print money with her sense of entitlement. Claire wanting to please and feeling inadequate felt authentic, especially with her mom’s Filipino roots. Salaysay’s writing, while adequate, had more telling than showing often feeling like words on a page without much excitement. Still, in the #MeToo era of confronting abusers like Paul, private lessons is an important and timely story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rissa

    Thank you to Candlewick Press via netgalley for sending me a copy of Private Lessons by Cynthia Salabysay. Available on May 12 2020 All opinions are my own. Private lessons 3.5⭐️ I think part my enjoyment came from being a music lover. I play 4 instruments and having our main character trying to perfect her skills with a master of paino was intriguing. Clarie is a musical prodigy that cant live up to her teacher and maestros expectations. She starts doing nothing but playing but still he isnt impr Thank you to Candlewick Press via netgalley for sending me a copy of Private Lessons by Cynthia Salabysay. Available on May 12 2020 All opinions are my own. Private lessons 3.5⭐️ I think part my enjoyment came from being a music lover. I play 4 instruments and having our main character trying to perfect her skills with a master of paino was intriguing. Clarie is a musical prodigy that cant live up to her teacher and maestros expectations. She starts doing nothing but playing but still he isnt impressed. Shes good. Shes great. In her time with him she learns how to love herself, take time so slow down and greive her fathers death. We get to see the cultural difference and how he was raised and raised with music vs his expectations of her. Fyi: This is a character driven story. The plot is slow but the characters and story are bold. I really enjoyed the ending when we are dealing with the final recital.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Thank you to Candlewick Press for an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Private Lessons is the debut YA Contemporary novel by Cynthia Salaysay. Claire Alalay is a teen living with the grief of losing her father who shared her love for music. She deals with this through playing her piano and immersing herself with her musicality. She is determined to get good grades and enter a good university, and she knows she must do something significant to get her there. Claire insists Thank you to Candlewick Press for an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Private Lessons is the debut YA Contemporary novel by Cynthia Salaysay. Claire Alalay is a teen living with the grief of losing her father who shared her love for music. She deals with this through playing her piano and immersing herself with her musicality. She is determined to get good grades and enter a good university, and she knows she must do something significant to get her there. Claire insists upon her mother to take lessons from one of the best and well-known teachers, Paul Avon. As Filipina who lived and grew up in the Philippines, we have always been close to family, and I understand that Claire was dealing with the loss of her father, but I particularly did not enjoy how she was with her mother throughout the book. I found, most of the time, that I was particularly annoyed with how she was being so difficult and selfish. I had such a difficult time connecting with the book, simply because I hated being in Claire's head. And although, she was so fierce about her love for music, it felt as if Claire was doing it just to get attention from the teacher, and not anything else. I didn't really feel her love for it, she was very lackluster and it felt like she wasn't really passionate about music. The blurb of Private Lessons did mention about the #MeToo movement, and I think this is really want propelled me to read on with this book. Paul Avon was very calculating and manipulative, he was very careful and cautioned with regards to giving compliments to Claire, which she craved all the more. You can clearly see the manipulation and how he was tolerant to Claire's misdemeanors. Paul clearly takes pleasure from her innocence and even convinces Claire to drink alcohol, to having underage sex. Some of them really made me uncomfortable, coming from a YA perspective but I guess it is also a different time now where teens are hypersexualized because of social media. I really started enjoying Private Lessons once Claire was healing and had her moment of realization. Albeit, in real life this might not be as easy to do, Claire's actions of cutting Paul out of her life was really the start of her character arc and redemption. Overall, Private Lessons was a good debut novel that is clearly very relevant in today's society.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Creya

    Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I had a very difficult time in terms of assigning this review a certain number of stars. Overall, I do not believe that I belong to the demographic that this book was crafted for. As a twenty-four-year-old married woman, there were several points where I just did not have time for the main character's sh*t. Additionally, I really hate books with characters who are mean to their Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I had a very difficult time in terms of assigning this review a certain number of stars. Overall, I do not believe that I belong to the demographic that this book was crafted for. As a twenty-four-year-old married woman, there were several points where I just did not have time for the main character's sh*t. Additionally, I really hate books with characters who are mean to their mothers. The beginning of the book deals with some important topics, such as growing up, losing your virginity, and how to move forward when the boy you like doesn't text you back. When Claire asks her mother for tampons instead of pads and contacts instead of glasses, I actually smiled. It also brings forth the idea that sex is not taboo and should be discussed more between teens and their parents. That said, the book took a seriously weird turn. Claire begins to fantasize about her forty-year-old piano teacher. When she house sits for him, she wears his ex-girlfriend's lipstick and lays in his bed. Okay..... When he returns and things get physical, she begins to think it might be wrong, but she's not totally sure. Yeah, Claire. It's gross. I understood Claire's ultimate regret regarding the entire situation between her and Paul. What I didn't understand was the author trying to invoke feelings of sympathy for Claire in the reader. Absolutely not. Re-reading its synopsis, this book was not anything like I expected. I contemplated just DNF'ing the whole thing all the way at 90%. It was just not good.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This #ownvoices author brings a unique spin to a tale of teacher-student sexual assault that manages to hit all the right points without making an impact. On the positive side, the way the author handles racial discrimination head-on is really a gut punch to see how even members of a so-called "model minority" face stereotyping, race and colorism, and race-based expectations. This book does a good job of depicting the emotional labor cost of dealing with the race-based slights of well-meaning an This #ownvoices author brings a unique spin to a tale of teacher-student sexual assault that manages to hit all the right points without making an impact. On the positive side, the way the author handles racial discrimination head-on is really a gut punch to see how even members of a so-called "model minority" face stereotyping, race and colorism, and race-based expectations. This book does a good job of depicting the emotional labor cost of dealing with the race-based slights of well-meaning and oblivious white folks in a way I believe people of color will identify with and even clueless white folks can learn from. On the other hand, this book really struggles with character development in a way that makes it feel clumsy. The only two standout characters are Claire, a sort of inspiring pianist whose real goal is just to get the hell out of dodge, and her emotionally manipulative famous piano teacher, Paul. All of the other characters feel rather like cardboard cutouts who are given an inch of personality/back story/character evolution in a way that makes them feel rather prescriptive than real. This is especially difficult because Claire is so very unlikeable. Most of the time we're in Claire's head, she's miserable about being pestered by her mom (that's pretty normal), desperately lonely at school (even though she spends nearly 6 months rejecting overtures from ostensibly her only friend), and alternately elated or depressed about her piano playing (which she practices for six hours a day). Throughout the book, the language feels pretty unrealistic of teen speak, and Claire's lack of agency really alienates the reader. Claire is convinced she's quite ugly, and sort of longs for street harassment for validation. The men and boys she finds attractive are stumbling over themselves to tell her how gorgeous she is in a way that feels pretty off-putting. She's so docile, I don't see teens wanting to identify with her, which is a shame because the nuanced way her piano teacher breaks her down is done so very well. Overall, I think teens will leave this book feeling pretty irritated with Claire, and I think other books like Barry Lyga's Boy Toy handle teacher sexual assault/rape in a more nuanced way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen

    I received an advance review copy from Candlewick Press through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest. 2.5 stars I need to think on this one for a while — it deals with heavy topics sensitively, but I felt like they could have been more nuanced, and the development felt choppy. Claire reminds me of my teenage self (withdrawn and more than a little judgmental, self-motivated and borderline self-absorbed, a bit of a music snob) which should be a plus but made it hard to sympathize with her. I received an advance review copy from Candlewick Press through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest. 2.5 stars I need to think on this one for a while — it deals with heavy topics sensitively, but I felt like they could have been more nuanced, and the development felt choppy. Claire reminds me of my teenage self (withdrawn and more than a little judgmental, self-motivated and borderline self-absorbed, a bit of a music snob) which should be a plus but made it hard to sympathize with her. Not that female characters have to be likable or perfect to earn sympathy, of course; it's just that I had trouble appreciating much about her besides her devotion to music and her perseverance. The writing itself didn't really work for me: too much figurative language to describe even the mundane scenes and emotions. Admittedly it's difficult to portray something as abstract and evocative as music without any creative descriptors, but very little of it resonated with me. FRTC. content warnings: (view spoiler)[underage sex, on-page rape, explicit but non-graphic sexual content, terminally ill parents (cancer), loss of loved ones, grief, racist and microaggressive remarks (challenged), slut-shaming (hide spoiler)] rep: (view spoiler)[Filipino-American MC, Filipina major character (mother), Vietnamese-American secondary character (best friend), diverse minor characters (hide spoiler)] ----------- CONVERSION : 7.4 / 15 = 2.5 stars Prose: 4 / 10 Characters & Relationships: 3 / 10 Emotional Impact: 5 / 10 Development / Flow: 4 / 10 Setting: 6 / 10 Diversity & Social Themes: 4 / 5 Intellectual Engagement: 2 / 5 Originality / Trope Execution: N/A Rereadability: N/A Memorability: N/A

  16. 4 out of 5

    ayesha,,

    2.5 ⭐ Do you know those books which have everything going right for them but the protagonist is so irritating they ruin your entire experience of the book? This is one of those books. Private Lessons is a coming of age story about a girl named Claire Alalay that essentially follows her as she navigates through music, depression, sexual awakening, assault and her teenage life. Listen, it's a nice enough book. I wouldn't call it a page turner but it keeps you hooked enough that you fly through it. Cl 2.5 ⭐ Do you know those books which have everything going right for them but the protagonist is so irritating they ruin your entire experience of the book? This is one of those books. Private Lessons is a coming of age story about a girl named Claire Alalay that essentially follows her as she navigates through music, depression, sexual awakening, assault and her teenage life. Listen, it's a nice enough book. I wouldn't call it a page turner but it keeps you hooked enough that you fly through it. Claire is a protagonist I wouldn't say I love but I cared about her enough to know what happens next in her messed up life. The thing is this book does everything just enough, not too much not too less. It didn't leave an impact but it WAS readable! I feel like every positive element of this book was overshadowed by how absolutley annoying Claire was. She was self-centered, insensitive and just plain boring. As a reader, it was not an enjoyable experience for me to read the book through her point of view but as someone who just got out of her embarrassing young adult phase I can understand why the author showed her this way. I did appreciate the author's take on a teacher-student relationship. It's manipulative and that's exactly how they portrayed it, so kudos to them for that. All in all, I don't 'hate' the book but I also wouldn't prefer to revisit this world anytime soon ~~ E-ARC provided by Candlewick Press~~

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kajree Gautom

    While this book had an interesting plot and story to tell, it lacked in its execution. And charcter. I disliked the MC so much because she was boring and had no individual voice. It felt too forced and you could see that it was the author telling and not the character's voice that your were reading. The story moved so slowly and then ended in an abrupt move. I feel like there could've been so much more to this story but it was not given enough screen space. The sexual encounter art first was gra While this book had an interesting plot and story to tell, it lacked in its execution. And charcter. I disliked the MC so much because she was boring and had no individual voice. It felt too forced and you could see that it was the author telling and not the character's voice that your were reading. The story moved so slowly and then ended in an abrupt move. I feel like there could've been so much more to this story but it was not given enough screen space. The sexual encounter art first was graphic and somewhat realistic I felt. It tried to describe Claire's life as she grew up a little and became a teenager and wanted to experience things. From the title and the blurb, you could guess the outcome of this story. But I wish, I wish that there was more at the end. Something of a closure and not just that vague bit.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I read this book during a really depressed time. I had fallout with two of my loved ones. My writing wasn't going well. I was home all the time doing nothing and whenever I went out, I felt physically sick. Not a great time for me. And it was as if God knew this book was something I'd need to read. Something that'll help me mentally and emotionally. This is one of the most poignant, realistic YA contemporary full of sharp and cutting and raw truths. This book isn't a very cheerful, fluffy, feel-g I read this book during a really depressed time. I had fallout with two of my loved ones. My writing wasn't going well. I was home all the time doing nothing and whenever I went out, I felt physically sick. Not a great time for me. And it was as if God knew this book was something I'd need to read. Something that'll help me mentally and emotionally. This is one of the most poignant, realistic YA contemporary full of sharp and cutting and raw truths. This book isn't a very cheerful, fluffy, feel-good book. You'll find very little humor here. Rather it's about a teen girl's painful journey of being disillusioned. The ugly truths she learns and the way she matures and heals toward the end really pack a punch. I related to her in so many ways. She is insecure about her looks and personality and feels both jealous and sad and longing and lonely by beautiful girls, perfect girls, gifted girls around her. It isn't internalized misogyny. More like a person longing and not getting everything she wants and hating this and then slowly unlearning these harmful behavior and turning into a much more mature and kind person. Every emotion she feels aren't melodramatic or hollow. She feels them deeply and she reacts accordingly. Her pain becomes your pain, her joy your joy, her fears your fears, and her loneliness your loneliness. The book starts when 17yo Filipino American teen, Claire Alalay, auditions to be tutored under a famous pianist, Paul Avon. Throughout the tutoring, she finds new friends, new passions, new experiences; as well as losing old friends, taking for granted what she already has, and being heartbroken and rejected multiple times. She survives depression, stress, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, abuse, and rejection. Her insecurities about her looks and abilities are very normal and relatable. The way she experiences emotional abuse and racism at the hand of her tutor and new friends are realistically portrayed. Her relationship with her mom and her best friend go through waves of changes and emotions, none too dramatic or exaggerated. 70% of the book is about Claire being disillusionally in love with Paul. The rest is about Claire healing after finding out his real face, how underneath his suave, debonair exterior is a man who does not hesitate to have sex with a minor (and his student!), moreover almost forces her to. He even allows her to drink alcohol and verbally expresses how he thinks drinking should not be barred from underage people. He takes pleasure from and advantage of her innocence and naïve feelings toward him. When he finds out she's confided their relationship with a friend, he lashes out at her and mentally and emotionally abuses her. From his assistant's hints, Claire isn't the first case. His ways of gaslighting and abusing Claire are very subtle, something you'll pick out only if you look closely and carefully. The subtle, lingering touches that can seem innocent and platonic. The twisting of her words. The leading her on, teasing her, flirting with her even after rejecting her. He goes to the point of grooming her under the excuse of making her look good on college application photos. He does nothing to dissuade her displays of desire for him, rather leads her on until she initiates sex (therefore, if anyone finds out she'll be the one at blame since she started it) and then forcing her to keep going when she's showing non-consent. When Claire finally cuts him out of her life, his ugly side rears and he verbally abuses her, to the point leading her to involuntary self-harm and quitting her dreams. Classic signs of abuse by a narcissist and an ephebophile (adults who are sexually attracted to teens from 15-19). What made me love this book is Claire finally realizing the truth and the abuse and standing up for herself and cutting his toxic presence out of her life. Many teacher student relationship stories don't do this. The minor characters are often left entranced and the toxic relationship is romanticized. This is where I applaud the author for not succumbing to the typical, harmful way stories like these go, rather showing us how gross, perverted, toxic such relationships can be. The best part of the book comes in the last 30%, when Claire is healing. She reconciles with her best friend and her mom, even her dog. She bravely stands up against racists and confronts Paul after he approaches her and tries to sweet-talk. These chapters just made me so proud of her and happy for her. I have received abuse and trauma at the hands of people I love/loved (not the type of abuse Claire went through though). So it just warms my heart and makes me wanna wave pompoms in the air for the victims who stand up for themselves, cut off their abusers, and live on with love and hope. To see any victims of abuse heal and move on and live life happily is a very wholesome, heartwarming thing, almost like soaking up lukewarm sun in winter. I encourage more such healthy, hopeful, wholesome contents in books, especially for teens. Thank you, Candlewick press and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Content warming: On-page sex with explicit details, statutory rape, mental, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse, gaslighting, sexual relationship with a minor, racism against Asians, swear words, involuntary self-harm, depression, isolation, subtle victim blaming, blood, some internalized misogyny, use of drugs by teens, underage drinking, death of parents mentioned, child grooming.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ula

    3 out of 5 🌟 Craving for love Claire is a 17-year old teenager whose father died of cancer and whose mother has been depressed ever since. Her best friend got a boyfriend and consequently, they're spending less and less time together. Claire finds her escape from all these problems in music. She's a talented pianist and being the best piano player is her chance to get a scholarship. Claire's new piano teacher impress her in every possible way. He is an accomplished musician and teacher, and he is 3 out of 5 🌟 Craving for love Claire is a 17-year old teenager whose father died of cancer and whose mother has been depressed ever since. Her best friend got a boyfriend and consequently, they're spending less and less time together. Claire finds her escape from all these problems in music. She's a talented pianist and being the best piano player is her chance to get a scholarship. Claire's new piano teacher impress her in every possible way. He is an accomplished musician and teacher, and he is nice to her, which in these circumstances is enough for Clair to become fond of him. My main issue with the 'Private Lessons' was that for at least 80% of the book I wasn't sure what the story is really about. It gave me the creepy 'Lolita' vibes and I wasn't really sure if the book wants to be a romance or a cautionary tale. Towards the ending, things got clear, and Claire's behavior started to make so much sense from the retrospective. She was not a troublesome teenager but the lonely child craving for some love and mistaking sex for real emotions. The book also mentions the problem of racism and how the white Americans approach non-white people and what assumptions they have about Asians (Claire is also Filipino). Although, that topic was described only briefly and I wish it was explored more. 'Private Lessons' touches the issue of rape vs consent sex in relation to age and power. This is a powerful topic and it should've been better executed. I would rather know about the incident from the very beginning and learn all the circumstances and history behind it in retrospect. I feel I would've better understand Claire and all her choices, knowing about her longing for a real relationship from the very beginning. Nevertheless, it was an eye-opening book and I was as shocked as the main character when I realized (in retrospect) that it was indeed rape and not just a bad sexual encounter. The book encouraged me to have some in-depth conversations about that with my husband and made me think about my past experience with not-so-100%-consent encounters. And with that in mind, I'm sure that book can be highly triggering for a lot of people. As for the author's style, the book is well written and I read it in just a few days. The storytelling was captivating and I'll be looking for the next books by Cynthia Salaysay. Thank you Netgalley and the publisher Candlewick Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and feelings are my own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    cathleen ッ

    1.5/5.0 i had low expectations getting into this book but still, it disappointed me. it was the first i've read with a filipina protag so i really really wanted to like it. but just.. i knew from the start it's not going to end up good. the writing was off. the pacing was off. there was no balance between description and narrative. the story felt like it couldn't decide which genre to head to. the dialogues were so lacking. i spot some plot holes. like when the mother literally saw this other pian 1.5/5.0 i had low expectations getting into this book but still, it disappointed me. it was the first i've read with a filipina protag so i really really wanted to like it. but just.. i knew from the start it's not going to end up good. the writing was off. the pacing was off. there was no balance between description and narrative. the story felt like it couldn't decide which genre to head to. the dialogues were so lacking. i spot some plot holes. like when the mother literally saw this other piano student in the tutor's home and the next time she and her daughter saw the girl, she just forgot and asked "a classmate of yours?" LIEK ??? and the main character is just sooooooo immature she annoyed the hell out of me. hope sparked when i reached the middle when everything felt beautiful (i even highlighted some pretty good dialogues) but again, ruined. i feel like the characters were too superficial and the only reasonable one was the bestfriend. also, they're like just crafted for the purpose of carrying out this plot (which is yes, what they should be but i didn't really care— about any of them). though i have to agree with some topics in here especially the filipina mother and her way of parenting BUT NOT ALL FILIPINO PARENTS ARE LIKE THAT. i'm just so annoyed at that scene where they fought and the daughter apologized and she snapped at her the rudest way possible liek NO THAT'S NOT HOW YOU PARENT A TEENAGER. i'm just so mad right now the ending did quite soothe me down BUT STILL

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Letizia (bookbosomed_jess)

    I thought this book had a really intriguing premise and the music backdrop added an interesting level to it, particularly due to the intense relationships that exist between teacher and student in such a competitive field. As far as how the book handled social issues, I found the race and first generation Filipino aspects of the story more compelling than the #MeToo aspects. While the ending tied things up nicely, I felt it skimmed the surface to a large degree, especially in the jump from him be I thought this book had a really intriguing premise and the music backdrop added an interesting level to it, particularly due to the intense relationships that exist between teacher and student in such a competitive field. As far as how the book handled social issues, I found the race and first generation Filipino aspects of the story more compelling than the #MeToo aspects. While the ending tied things up nicely, I felt it skimmed the surface to a large degree, especially in the jump from him being her teacher to him being more and in the resolution at the end. She lacked agency throughout and needed to be told by others what to do and how to feel. I also struggled with Claire, mostly in how she related to others. She treated her mother and her best friend very poorly and was incredibly nonchalant about her craft which just pissed me off. She was just very egocentric and not remotely relatable. I also thought the book was more graphic than I’d expect from a YA book. Not only is the relationship extremely inappropriate but it’s also discussed in far more detail than I’d expect for something like this, and in a way that didn’t add to the story in a substantive way. Overall, I thought this was an okay debut, I just wanted more depth and more deftness with the character development. 2.8⭐️ and thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the early copy in exchange for an honest review

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Claire takes to the piano in the wake of her father’s death. Her hours upon hours of practicing lead her to study under one of the most prestigious teachers in the bay area. But, is their relationship becoming unhealthy? Is she willing to overcome the odds to be the best? The story crafted by author, Cynthia Salaysay, is a crucial one in today’s era. Predators are being exposed in the wake of #metoo, and parents are more alert than ever. This book is a key reminder to never be too trustworthy, ag Claire takes to the piano in the wake of her father’s death. Her hours upon hours of practicing lead her to study under one of the most prestigious teachers in the bay area. But, is their relationship becoming unhealthy? Is she willing to overcome the odds to be the best? The story crafted by author, Cynthia Salaysay, is a crucial one in today’s era. Predators are being exposed in the wake of #metoo, and parents are more alert than ever. This book is a key reminder to never be too trustworthy, age 10, 17 or 88 it doesn’t matter, sexual assault can happen to anyone. Salaysay does such an incredible job of creating this palpable relationship between teacher and student, outlining the power structure as well as Claire’s friends and home life. She paints such a clear picture that makes the reader understand HOW this can happen and yet elicits the anger that is HAS occurred. A job well done in creating the scene, showing the passion and then tearing it all down to the foundation. *Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alyce Caswell

    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Claire is a young pianist who wants to use the services of a new teacher. But she's the one who ends up being used. I'm not sure this book knew what it wanted to be. It was too graphic and slow for a YA novel, but too superficial for literary fiction - and the protagonist had no agency whatsoever. I understand that Claire was a victim of grooming, but a protagonist who moves from scene to scene instead of pushing things forward i I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Claire is a young pianist who wants to use the services of a new teacher. But she's the one who ends up being used. I'm not sure this book knew what it wanted to be. It was too graphic and slow for a YA novel, but too superficial for literary fiction - and the protagonist had no agency whatsoever. I understand that Claire was a victim of grooming, but a protagonist who moves from scene to scene instead of pushing things forward is not a riveting character to read about. I always like to finish what I start so I did make it to the ending, which was were the book showed signs of life for the first time. I really wish the rest of the book had been like the final 20%.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy Hutchinson

    I really enjoyed this book. The use of music was great and the story was heartbreaking but hopeful all at the same time. Would recommend

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Private Lessons is not at all an easy read, but it's done really, really well. (TW: grooming, rape, death of a parent, racism, casual mention of off-page animal death) Claire Alalay is a 17-year-old piano player who takes lessons from the charismatic and talented Paul Avon. The blurb says it's a book for the #MeToo era, so I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Paul does something unforgiveable. I'll be delving deeply into how well Salaysay treats the #MeToo stuff, so first, I want to say that Private Lessons is not at all an easy read, but it's done really, really well. (TW: grooming, rape, death of a parent, racism, casual mention of off-page animal death) Claire Alalay is a 17-year-old piano player who takes lessons from the charismatic and talented Paul Avon. The blurb says it's a book for the #MeToo era, so I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Paul does something unforgiveable. I'll be delving deeply into how well Salaysay treats the #MeToo stuff, so first, I want to say that I also really like how Salaysay explored the casual racism and sexism Claire and other BIPOC characters experience. I especially love a scene at a music competition where a white man asks Claire, her mom, and Claire's Vietnamese-American BFF Tash what their nationality is, because it was so realistic. I especially love the little details that make it especially realistic: how the man assumes the three Asian-Americans are part of the same family and is shocked that Tash isn't Filipino-American; how Claire's mom doesn't know how to respond and so just giggles nervously; how Claire's white BFF Julia is totally oblivious of what's happening; how the man has no idea how to respond when the question is turned back on him, and especially, how this isn't the first time in the story that someone asks Claire this question. Having been asked that question many times myself, I can attest that this scene felt incredibly nuanced and real, and I love how Salaysay wrote it. There's also Julia's perception of Claire's looks, which again Salaysay handles so subtly that it's hard to tell whether Julia is somewhat jealous of Claire's looks because she genuinely thinks Claire is pretty, or if Julia is also somewhat being racist and fetishizing Claire's Asian-ness. Salaysay kinda blurs the line on this several times, with just-subtle-enough comments from Julia that it makes you a bit uncomfortable, but also, maybe you're imagining things? There's a particularly gross moment after Julia learns about the #MeToo stuff, where she outright tells Claire "You're very sensual. Asian girls. Men kind of slobber all over them." This was said somewhat within the context of Julia saying Paul's behaviour was "disturbing" and so could be read as an indictment of Paul's possible Asian fetish, but it's also equally possible that Julia believes that Asian girls are "sensual", in which case, how much of a friend is Julia, really, to Claire? Either way, Salaysay handles this with just enough ambiguity that it's difficult to label Julia as racist or otherwise, which again feels very realistic and true-to-life. I also like how Salaysay depicted Claire's mom's grief (and possible depression) over Claire's dad's passing. Again, it's the subtle details that Salaysay gets right that makes this work: how Claire's mom can spend an entire day in bed but then turn cheerful when a church friend comes over; how Claire's mom turns to her faith for comfort and, for a long time, resists the idea of therapy; how Claire's mom also finds moments of joy, like in eating a burger and fries with Claire from a drive-through. I love the subtle Filipinisms that make Claire's mom real -- how she says "don't open the light" instead of "don't turn on the light"; how she calls Claire "anak" as a term of endearment; how she has a bunch of Virgin Mary, Jesus, and saint statues around the house; how she says prayer is what gets her through; even how she responds when Claire says prayer doesn't seem to be enough. I love how Salaysay has created Claire's mom, and I love the relationship between mother and daughter. Now on to the #MeToo stuff, which as I said, I think Salaysay handles really well. There are unfortunately far too many possible permutations of #MeToo stories, and I think the one most people immediately think of are incidents when the perpetrator physically forces themselves on the victim, or the victim is drugged or incapacitated in some way. Less well-known, yet equally horrific, are the more gradual scenarios, where the perpetrator grooms the victim in many subtle, hard-to-pinpoint ways. In this case, Paul is a very demanding teacher, who uses Claire's admiration of him to push her sometimes to the point of physical injury (at one point, her wrist hurts from her practicing, and she thinks at least Paul will think she worked hard). He also touches her, ostensibly to adjust her position so her playing improves, and something the author does really well is keep the entire thing super subtle. We're seeing the story from Claire's POV, so like Claire, we can see all of Paul's comments on her appearance, his overtures of friendship beyond their lessons, his subtle bits of emotional manipulation to keep her starving for his approval, etc, as potentially innocent, simply a demanding teacher pushing his student to do better. Yet because we're also distanced from Claire's situation, we can also feel the slight sheen of wrongness throughout, the slight twinge of something not being right, even though Paul has technically not yet done anything wrong. Paul's behaviour throughout the novel is a particularly insidious form of abuse, because it's so hard to pinpoint exactly what he's doing that's wrong, yet we can already see how his behaviour is already starting to change Claire, and make her more dependent on his approval. Something else that may also be easy to miss in conversations around #MeToo -- and that Salaysay explores especially well in this novel -- is how easy it is for #MeToo victims to feel complicit in what happens to them. Claire is undeniably attracted to Paul. With the particular #MeToo incident, she specifically sets out wanting Paul to kiss her. Salaysay takes us through Claire's thoughts and emotions in this particular chapter with heartbreaking clarity, as things shift from giddiness over Paul's attention to confusion, shame and guilt at how things turn out. In particular, when Paul shifts from tender contact to a more explicit, self-serving act, Salaysay's language shifts as well. We are right with Claire when she realizes that Paul doesn't care about her as she cares about him, and because of that, what she ends up doing for Paul feels dirty. There's a point where Claire tries to back out, and Paul physically stops her from doing so, which I figure Salaysay included so it's super crystal clear that what happened was criminal. But even without that moment, I think the wrongness in the entire scene felt heartbreakingly real. Salaysay also handled the fallout from the incident in a sensitive, all-too-realistic way. + Thank you to Candlewick Press for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    C/T Warnings: Sexual assault, age-gap relationship (teacher-student). An honest book with a Filipino protagonist. But I had to DNF (73%) because I just cannot read stories with taboo relationships (especially when they're graphic). Claire is a prime example of a teenage girl who thinks she knows what she wants--a trait which ultimately leads to others taking advantage of her. As a Filipino Catholic, I'm personally tired of the "my ethnic Mom is super religious" trope. It is something that resonat C/T Warnings: Sexual assault, age-gap relationship (teacher-student). An honest book with a Filipino protagonist. But I had to DNF (73%) because I just cannot read stories with taboo relationships (especially when they're graphic). Claire is a prime example of a teenage girl who thinks she knows what she wants--a trait which ultimately leads to others taking advantage of her. As a Filipino Catholic, I'm personally tired of the "my ethnic Mom is super religious" trope. It is something that resonates with a lot of teens, I'm sure. But that wasn't my experience and it is hard to feel validated when the depiction of your culture in literature is defaulted to a family framework that consists of overly-religious parents and their resentful children. No, I didn't have my faith all figured out when I was a teen. But I never resented my Catholic mom (who honestly, isn't even that religious--if anything, I'm more religious than she is), the way most teens are drawn to be in literature. The literary depiction of music, particularly piano music, is pretty tolerable here. It's lyrical (no. pun.intended.), but I skipped over most of it because I just find it time-consuming to read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patty Smith

    Many thanks to NetGalley, Cynthia Salaysay, and Candlewick Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All my thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. Claire is concerned about her college applications, so she decides to up her musical game and auditions for an elite piano teacher. Paul accepts her and so their journey begins. Claire is a loner who finds it hard to relate to other kids her age. Her father died and her mother is so overprotective i Many thanks to NetGalley, Cynthia Salaysay, and Candlewick Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All my thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. Claire is concerned about her college applications, so she decides to up her musical game and auditions for an elite piano teacher. Paul accepts her and so their journey begins. Claire is a loner who finds it hard to relate to other kids her age. Her father died and her mother is so overprotective it can be stifling at times. It comes with the territory of being a Philippino mother. Claire misses her dad tremendously. She has a best friend but finds that they are growing apart since Tash has a new boyfriend and Claire is becoming serious about her music. Claire finds it hard to make friends. How many other kids are there who come from an immigrant family, have a dead parent, and loves to listen to classical music? Claire spends most of her time on her music. Now that Paul has taken her on, Claire begins an awakening. She begins to own her power as a woman who is really a girl coming into her sexuality. She also begins to recognize her power as a musician and how her talent can open doors that she never expected. This is a coming of age story of how Claire deals with grown-up feelings and learns how to navigate situations that might be beyond her years. I’m not sure how many kids will enjoy this book. I, personally, loved so much about it, but that’s because having grown up as a classical pianist, that was my life. I found it authentic and relatable. Without the lens of music, kids might find it a drag to hear about the inner workings of a classical musician. If Claire couldn’t make any friends because of her devotion to Classical music, I’m not sure how many real kids will want to read about it. I will be interested to see the reaction of young adults. The relationship between a private music teacher and a student is a powerful one. One where the adult has all the power and the student is constantly trying to please. The teacher is also opening up the student’s world, so the admiration can feel strong. Claire’s world is very small and so the relationship becomes even more powerful. Obviously there will be many opportunities for abuse of power. I’m not sure this part worked for me. First, it was creepy. And second I’m not sure how well this issue was handled. Claire was a fully fleshed-out character. She wasn’t just a musician, but with her home life, her quiet personality, and her grief over her father there were lots to explore. Claire’s feelings were never right or wrong but rather mixed up. Sometimes she didn’t know how to feel. I remember those feelings very well. I thought that was very authentic. However, I didn’t feel that any of the other characters were as well rounded. They were merely side-characters, simply there to fulfill the plot point and then dropped. Another problem that I had was that I felt this book dealt with too many issues. There was the musical part, which I thought was very well explored. The coming of age story was rushed and something I thought could have been the whole story. Claire dealing with her father’s death and the aftermath of that was touched on, but again, it could have been explored more. Connected to that storyline was the relationship between Claire and her mother. Then, to add the relationship between Chris and Claire was the thing that tipped the scale. Sometimes, too many ingredients spoil the dish. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’m not sure how much of it was because of my connection to growing up as a classical musician. There were other good elements to this story, but because there were so many issues, I felt some didn’t get the development they should have. But, give this one a chance and let me know what you think.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mina

    **Review originally posted on My Fangirl Chronicles** My Rating: 2 stars Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **Trigger/Content Warnings: Statutory rape, age-gap relationship (student/teacher), underage drinking, mentions of death/dying, sex, sexual content** This book wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought this was going to be an empowering #OwnVoices story set within **Review originally posted on My Fangirl Chronicles** My Rating: 2 stars Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **Trigger/Content Warnings: Statutory rape, age-gap relationship (student/teacher), underage drinking, mentions of death/dying, sex, sexual content** This book wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought this was going to be an empowering #OwnVoices story set within the #MeToo movement, but in the end I only felt underwhelmed, disappointed, and relieved I could finally stop reading it. I knew what type of story it was trying to tell, but it was not executed well at all. I wanted to like Claire; I wanted to be cheering for her the whole way through because I could relate to her in so many ways. But halfway through the book I was already fed up with her, and once I dislike the main character it’s difficult for me to like the rest of the story since it’s told from her point of view. I nearly DNF’d this just because of how annoying, unlikable, and boring Claire is. She and her character arc felt very underdeveloped and flat. Combined with the weird pacing of the novel overall, it felt as if her character remained stagnant throughout 95% of the story and it wasn’t until the last couple chapters is when she finally makes progress. Something I really enjoyed seeing was all the Filipino representation with Claire’s mom’s mannerisms that I found so familiar, her Titas, taking your shoes off when entering the house, etc. That was one of two things that prevented me from rating this a one-star. The other was the lovely and poetic descriptions of the music. I’d never read music, especially classical music being described the way Cynthia does in this novel. Overall, her writing was great – fairly easy to follow, poetic, and engaging – but I did feel that the pacing was off and, for a young adult contemporary novel, read incredibly slow. (Another reason why I was tempted to DNF it.) Although I sort of knew what I was getting into after reading the synopsis, I was not prepared to read a clear description of a rape scene. To say I was disgusted and more than a little disturbed is an understatement. There should be trigger warnings included in the beginning of the book, even if the content is hinted at in the synopsis. So, be warned that there is a detailed rape scene described in this book. Overall, it was a valiant attempt at tackling such a heavy topic for a young adult novel, but was poorly executed, resulting in a lackluster story that does not do the #MeToo movement justice. I cannot and do not recommend this book, but I enjoyed Cynthia’s writing style and wouldn’t mind checking out her next book in the future.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paige Green

    Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: Private Lessons Author: Cynthia Salaysay Book Series: Standalone Rating: 5/5 Diversity: Filipino American main character! Publication Date: May 12, 2020 Genre: YA Contemporary Recommended Age: 18+ (sex and sexual content, statutory rape TW, underage drinking, death, child grooming, drug use, abuse: emotional mental verbal and psychological, racism, language, self-harm TW, depression, gaslighting, w Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: Private Lessons Author: Cynthia Salaysay Book Series: Standalone Rating: 5/5 Diversity: Filipino American main character! Publication Date: May 12, 2020 Genre: YA Contemporary Recommended Age: 18+ (sex and sexual content, statutory rape TW, underage drinking, death, child grooming, drug use, abuse: emotional mental verbal and psychological, racism, language, self-harm TW, depression, gaslighting, wanting to kill a character more than Umbridge) Publisher: Candlewick Press Pages: 320 Amazon Link Synopsis: After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection. Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.  Review: This was a gorgeous book! The book does not shy from the tough points, where it shows our main character who is in love with this (for a lack of a better word) pedo who is abusing his authority to have sex with her (a minor, EW!). The book is expertly written, amazingly well detailed for world building, and the characters are engaging (and disgusting in Paul’s case). Sometimes when books say they are wrote for a certain thing (like feminism or otherwise) I find the book isn’t really embodying that movement. However, I feel like this book is a champion for the #metoo movement. However, I felt like the book was a bit slower paced than what I usually preferred, but I think it’s intention. It makes you pause and forces you to hear Claire’s story, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Verdict: I recommend this as essential reading. It’s hard to read sometimes, but it’s essential to do so.

  30. 4 out of 5

    BreeAnn (She Just Loves Books)

    What I Loved: I really appreciate the author tackling such a tough subject matter. I am sure it is hard to write about the topics surrounding this story, but I feel it is also important for work like this to be available to people, especially a younger audience. How I Felt: This story was an emotional read. Written by debut author Cynthia Salaysay, it is touted as a #metoo story and it is, but it takes a while to get there. The book was slow to start and really draws out the manipulation by Paul, t What I Loved: I really appreciate the author tackling such a tough subject matter. I am sure it is hard to write about the topics surrounding this story, but I feel it is also important for work like this to be available to people, especially a younger audience. How I Felt: This story was an emotional read. Written by debut author Cynthia Salaysay, it is touted as a #metoo story and it is, but it takes a while to get there. The book was slow to start and really draws out the manipulation by Paul, the music teacher. The author did a good job of showing how cunning Paul is as he passes small compliments to Claire in a very calculated manner. The relationship between Paul and Claire begins as a student-teacher relationship for the piano. Paul slowly takes control of Claire in a predatory manner, ultimately driving her to a sexual relationship with him. I did feel that this was a bit graphic for a YA novel and mostly unnecessary to tell the story properly. When Claire finally breaks away from Paul and begins her journey of healing, I really felt like the story finally found its footing. It was the part I enjoyed most about the book. The characters were not as strong as I would have liked. I felt that Claire was missing characteristics that would have helped her to connect to the reader. I think that in a story with this much importance in the subject matter, having readers connect with the main character is paramount. Without it, the takeaways and learnings become a bit muddled. Claire’s relationship with her mother is extremely difficult to read about. I know that she is dealing with the loss of her father, but her actions make her extremely hard to like, resulting in another reason I struggled to connect with her. Overall, this was a book that I struggled through in the beginning. I did not enjoy the main character, Claire, which made it difficult to read. Additionally, the story is slow to start and focuses less on the #metoo idea than I would have liked. It does have a good message and it’s a difficult subject to tackle, so I appreciate the author’s work in that regard. Content Warnings: Inappropriate student-teacher relationship, rape, somewhat graphic sexual encounters for a YA book. To Read or Not To Read: I would recommend Private Lessons for readers that enjoy an emotional story that covers tough topics in a real-feel setting. I was provided an advanced reader's copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily. My full review of this book will post to my blog on 5/26/20. All of my reviews can be found at https://shejustlovesbooks.com/all-boo...

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