Cassie is falling in love with her stepfather Dino’s brilliant young violin student, all while trying to cover up his increasingly erratic behavior, in this story of intense love, family, and secrets from Printz Honor medal winner and National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.
Seventeen-year-old Cassie Morgan lives with a time bomb, a.k.a. her stepfather, Dino Cavalli. To the public, Dino is a world-renowned violin player and composer. To Cassie, he’s an erratic, self-centered bully. And he’s getting worse. Dino no longer sleeps, and he grows increasingly paranoid. Before, Cassie was angry. Now she is afraid.
Enter Ian Waters: a brilliant young violinist, and Dino’s first-ever student. The minute Cassie lays eyes on Ian she knows she’s doomed to fall head-over-heels in love with him.
Cassie thought she understood that love could bring pain, but this union will have consequences she could not have imagined.
Caletti (The Queen of Everything) again plays with themes of passion and recklessness in this rich novel. Cassie never liked Dino Cavalli, a "world-renowned composer and violinist, a combination of talent virtually unheard of," the man her mother married five days after divorcing her father. When he goes off anti-depression medication to compose new works, he becomes paranoid. Meanwhile, Cassie, who "had had enough of people of passion," prefers astronomy to music. Yet she falls in love with Dino's student, Ian, a violin prodigy with his own family secrets. Cassie's first-person narrative will sweep up readers, and her exploration of the fine line between madness and genius alternates between humor and painful truth. (The book's title comes from Van Gogh's Wild Roses, one of the paintings he completed just before his suicide.) The author builds the tension well: as Dino's concert approaches, Cassie's father finds holes in Dino's Italian childhood (memorialized in a biography); Dino thinks his former agent is stalking him; and Ian looks worn as his music school audition nears. Some characters may seem less credible (e.g., Ian's stepbrother and Cassie's eccentric grandmother) but only by contrast with a cast of otherwise full-blooded characters, including Cassie's mother, who grows thin trying to control Dino's insanity, but closes her eyes and smiles when he performs ("gone to wherever music and passion can take her"). In the end, readers will empathize with each trapped character, even Dino himself. Ages 12-up.