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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher Pan MacMillan. This does not affect my review in anyway, and the thoughts expressed are completely my own.
Continuing on from The Harper Effect, this new book follows Jacob as he struggles to deal with the tragic loss of his bandmates while he befriends Astrid Belle, an opera singer in training who is suffers from terrible stage fright. Raised solely by her father, a world-class music teacher nicknamed the Maestro, Astrid attempts to live up to her mother’s shadow and follow Maestro’s harsh rules. Bonding over their love of music and grief over the loss of loved ones, Astrid and Jacob open up to one another and begin to heal.
Jacob’s music career was just starting when his four bandmates and best friends are killed in a car crash. Now his dreams feels unattainable under the weight of four deaths. His parents give him an ultimatum; get into the Conservatorium for Music or give up music forever. Still heartbroken after the girl he loved – his childhood best friend and neighbour, Harper – chose another guy over him, and still scarred over his parents’ continued indifference, Jacob was hardly stable before his friends died. Forced to get a music tutor, Jacob never would have expected that knocking on Maestro’s door would change his life.
Astrid mother was a famous soprano who died shortly after giving birth to Astrid. Six years later, Astrid’s older sister, Savannah, died. Witnessing her father’s all-consuming grief, Astrid would sing for him and declared she would be a soprano just like her mother and was finally able to drag him out of the dark. But years later, Astrid adheres his strict rules; home-schooled with no friends or distractions; everything that could risk damaging her voice is banned, including certain foods.
Maestro is controlling and overbearing, and practically loses his mind whenever Jacob and Astrid even speak to each other. I don’t know how Astrid stands living with him, his worse than a warden! She can’t even go to school and make friends her own age. He immediately attempts to control Jacob’s life, but he isn’t prepared for Jacob’s stubbornness. Watching these two butt heads was amusing and I’d laugh every time Jacob would come back with a snarky comment.
This book was emotional from the very first chapter. These two have suffer so much at such a young age and it was fascinating to watch the completely different reactions; let grief consume you and drink until you can’t see, or avoid your own grief and mould yourself to fill the shoes of those you lost. They were both unhealthy, despite Astrid’s being a subtle version. Watching these two heal and help each other with their grief was beautiful and I loved how their relationship developed. They saw the scars each other bares but are still drawn together – despite Astrid insisting they keep in platonic.
My favourite character was a Dex, a young boy who works his hardest to care for his ill mother. With only his single mother as family, Dex is determined to care for her as much as she has cared for him. Maria works as a maid for Jacob’s family, but due to her failing health Dex does most of the work. For a boy not even fifteen he knows more about hardship than most people ever will. I loved getting to find out more about Dex and his optimistic world view and love of music is a nice comparison to Jacob.
I didn’t expect there to be a mystery, but this just made the book all the more captivating. I had to know the truth! The reveal was worth the wait and helped to make this book feel real. I don’t enjoy contemporaries much, but I did find myself thinking about this one, eager to read more. I give it 5/5. Plus, the cover is beautiful!