Reviewed by Helyce
I was incredibly intrigued at the prospect of a story where both protagonists suffer from such different disorders. As I write this first sentence I struggle with using that word: disorder. It doesn’t quite feel right, but it somehow felt the least offensive of other words such as handicap, affliction, or disability. Because Ronnie and Scott are none of those things.
Ronnie and Scott are both incredibly talented musicians. They both play the violin and have done so since childhood. Scott has a pretty severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome. I say severe because that’s how it felt as I read. He has some of the tics people who have Tourette’s suffer from-the flailing or hand tapping and the uncontrolled verbal outbursts. Scott tends to whack himself on the side of his thigh when he is especially agitated, and if he’s holding something, like his violin case, he can bruise himself. Unlike the swearing that people seem to expect from Tourette’s, Scott’s main word tic is “bunny” which he’ll use often. Unfortunately for Scott, his brain seems to take on new word tics or phrases throughout the story-some quite embarrassing-and once they become a tic, they can escape at the most inopportune times.
Ronnie has dyslexia, and again a pretty severe case, as depicted by the author, in that Ronnie still struggles with reading even the simplest things. She’s learned many avoidance tactics to hide it for the most part, but her fear of being found out can be debilitating–as in having a panic attacks that literally take her down. Her determination to overcome her dyslexia and succeed as a violinist is all due to Ronnie’s sheer grit and most especially, proving to her parents that she could succeed when they had said she couldn’t.
While it was impossible for Scott to hide his Tourette’s, Ronnie was able to hide her dyslexia for the most part. She created for herself a way to color code her music sheets-something that took quite a long time to do-when she needed to learn a new piece. Then, she’d practice and practice until she had every single nuance of the piece memorized. The sheet music on her stand was just a prop at that point. She didn’t need it, she couldn’t read it without her color codes anyway.
Forest clearly shows the differences in Scott and Ronnie’s upbringing in that Scott’s parents never allowed him to feel that he was different. They encouraged him to do anything and everything and let him decide what limitations, if any, he may have. Ronnie, on the other had, was often made to feel that she shouldn’t try anything because she probably wouldn’t be able to do it. Interestingly, it did not deter her from her goal to be a violinist; in fact, it made her much per determined to succeed and prove her parents wrong.
The author depicts Ronnie and Scott as adversaries in the beginning. Ronnie knows that Scott is a magnificent violinist because she heard his audition, but when he gets first chair and she receives second chair with their local orchestra she is truly disappointed; especially after Scott’s Tourette’s is revealed in all its glory. But it’s not long before Ronnie starts to feel a sort of kinship with Scott especially when Scott has a panic attack of his own the night of the orchestra’s first performance.
Even after they get together, Ronnie has issues with the “competition” between them. It’s the one thing that keep causing conflict within their new relationship. Scott enjoys playing but he likes teaching more. He wants Ronnie to succeed and realize her dream of playing for the New York Philharmonic, but when he realizes that once again they are asked to audition for the same chair, he backs out so Ronnie can shine. I’m not sure what the author was trying to show here. Scott clearly loves Ronnie and I could feel how conflicted he was with his decision not to audition.
I found I admired both characters so much as I got to know them. I loved that when Scott got lost in the music he didn’t tic or flail as much. And I especially loved watching Ronnie come into her own and accept her dyslexia rather than hide behind it, and begin to use her experiences in a positive way.
Secondary characters round out the cast and bring it all together, especially Giselle. Giselle owns a music store that Ronnie get a job in and she becomes a mentor of sorts for Ronnie. She pops up and always has something enlightening to say.
A solid read with interesting characters and a unique subject matter that doesn’t overwhelm the love story.