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Table of Contents
About The Book
In this sexy and intriguing novel, an intense—and passionate—bond between a high school senior and her music teacher becomes a public scandal that threatens the reputation of both.
Bea has a secret.
Actually, she has more than one. There’s her dream for the future that she can’t tell anyone—not her father and not even her best friend, Plum.
And now there’s Dane Rossi. Dane is hot, he shares Bea’s love of piano, and he believes in her.
He’s also Bea’s teacher.
When their passion for music crosses into passion for each other, Bea finds herself falling completely for Dane. She’s never felt so wanted, so understood, so known to her core. But the risk of discovery carries unexpected surprises that could shake Bea entirely. Bea must piece together what is and isn’t true about Dane, herself, and the most intense relationship she’s ever experienced in this absorbing novel from Nancy Ohlin, the author of Beauty.
It’s the first day of senior year—or as Plum puts it, “The Year Before Our Real Lives Can Finally Begin.” At lunch she and I eat Kraft cheese and French dressing sandwiches together in the cafetorium.
What an awful word: “cafetorium.” It sounds like a monster in a Syfy movie. The reality isn’t much better. At Andrew Jackson High School, a.k.a. A-Jax, it is a vast, impersonal, mental-asylum space with milk-colored walls and the forever stench of boiled meat. The inmates within are many, noisy, and dangerous.
Plum and I started Mad Sandwich Mondays sophomore year—the “wise fool” year, the year when we thought we would be stuck in the never-ending loop of high school and not–high school for eternity. We take turns bringing each other odd combinations, like peanut butter–cucumber, pineapple-mayo, and bacon–Marshmallow Fluff.
“This is actually good,” I say, taking a bite of my sandwich. “It’s weirdly comforting.”
“My mom used to eat these when she was little. Hey, Bea?”
“Have you thought about what I said? About Harvard? Because the Early Action deadline is November first, and we should really get cracking on the application.”
“Oh, yeah. That.”
Over the summer Plum got the idea that we should go to Harvard together. She thinks we have a good chance of getting in because we have the two highest GPAs in school. I told her that my cousin Jin didn’t get into Harvard, and he had a 4.0, perfect regular and subject SATs, and a letter of recommendation from a U.S. senator, from some swank internship. Of course, this didn’t faze her one bit. The word “impossible” is not in Plum’s vocabulary.
Now she reaches into her backpack and extracts her sparkly gold notebook—nicknamed “The Golden Notebook,” after Doris Lessing’s novel. On the first page are an A list and a B list of the colleges she wants us to apply to. Harvard is at the very top and has a big pink heart around it. Included, too, are a bunch of due dates and requirements: transcripts, test scores, the Common App, et cetera. The guidance counselor, Miss Beaven, is supposed to be doing all this, but with 798 seniors to get through, she’s probably slammed.
Plus, she’s Miss Beaven. Plum and I try not to talk to her or any other adults at A-Jax unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Plum sits up with an excited flutter of hands. “I know! Let’s go on a road trip to Boston. Columbus Day weekend! I’ve heard it really helps to visit the schools, do the tours, and suck up to the admissions people.” She blushes. “I mean, ‘make a good impression on.’ ”
I laugh. “It’s okay to say ‘suck up.’ Just not to their faces.”
Her eyes light up. “So we can go?”
“No, that’s not what I—”
But she is already looking at her calendar, rattling off dates, and talking about borrowing her parents’ Prius so we can save on gas.
I eat my Kraft cheese and French dressing sandwich and let Plum’s Disney-cheerful voice wash over me.
Maybe I should remind her that the heroine of The Golden Notebook has a mental breakdown.
Maybe I should just skip college altogether and become a cafetorium lady.
• • •
No, I’m not one of those slackers who want to check out after high school and drift aimlessly through life. Not like my brother, Theo, who at age twenty-nine still works at CVS, shares a house with six other guys, and plays guitar for a garage band called the Angry Weasels. I think he thinks that beer is one of the four major food groups.
I’m also not depressed. I know all about depression from health class, the not eating and not sleeping and not wanting to get out of bed, and that’s definitely not me.
It’s just that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. Pretty much the only thing I enjoy doing besides hanging out with Plum is playing the piano. But there’s no way I can become a professional musician. Plus, lately, that part of my life has lost its spark and momentum—I’m not sure why.
Also, it’s not like anyone in my family shows any interest in my future whatsoever. Sometimes I envy those kids with the pushy helicopter parents, like Cassie Lindstrom’s mom, who videotapes her voice lessons and postmortems them afterward, or Zach Cormier’s dad, who puts his dance clips on YouTube and tweets about them:
@zachcorm made it to the finals at Nationals! Woot!
The only person who’s pushing me forward is Plum. And really, she’s just imposing her own blueprint on me, because as far as she’s concerned, we’re identical twins.
But we’re not. We are so not.
I love her, but she has no clue. About my future, my past, anything.
Although maybe that’s something we have in common.
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 10, 2015)
- Length: 288 pages
- ISBN13: 9781442464902
- Grades: 9 and up
- Ages: 14 - 99
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Raves and Reviews
When Dane Rossi, ayoung English pianist substitute-teaching Bea's music-appreciation class, hearsBea play, he insists she could have a career as a concert pianist and urges herto apply to his alma mater, Juilliard, even as their intense, mutual attractioncomplicates her choices. Bea's mother went to Juilliard and also dreamed ofbecoming a concert pianist, but she died giving birth to Bea, who's sure herfather and older brother hold her responsible. Entirely self-taught, Bea's kepther dreams secret. Now, blossoming under Dane's guidance, she accepts his offerto introduce her to his Juilliard mentor, a great pianist. But when herrelationship with Dane takes a turn toward intimacy on their trip to New York,she's both confused and thrilled. The story's strongest when it focuses on thisrelationship, honoring its complexity and neither oversimplifying it nordemonizing either of them. While that's deftly handled, other plot pointsstrain credulity. Readers will have difficulty buying Bea's near perfection asa classical pianist given that her only instruction has been "from booksand online and stuff." After all, a crucial element of classical musicaltraining is feedback from teachers on student performance. While Bea's familyis underdeveloped, her deep guilt at having been born seems more than a tadoverblown. A compassionate but clearsighted look at student-teacher liaisons,somewhat diminished by an over-the-top plot setup.
– Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2015
Gr 9 Up–Between all of the lies she tells at school about her nonexistent piano teacher and her supposedly okay home life, Beatrice Kim has a lot of secrets even before starting her senior year at Andrew Jackson High School. Then Bea meets her music history teacher. Mr. Rossi is young and good-looking and completely believes in Bea’s potential as a professional pianist—something Bea hasn’t ever allowed herself to consider. When their shared passion for music turns into something else, Bea and Rossi begin a sexual relationship that could ruin them both. Bea thinks she knows what she is doing and what she wants. She thinks Rossi understands her and loves her. But with the threat of discovery looming, she will have to confront uncomfortable truths about herself and her relationship.This work, reminiscent of Sara Zarr’s The Lucy Variations (Little,Brown, 2013), explores how Bea lost her love for the piano and how she can reclaim it. It also is an often uncomfortable examination of a relationship that never should have happened. Despite the problems Bea hints at in her home life and the lies she tells, everything comes very easily to her. She is at the top of her class despite having no real interest in college. She is a piano prodigy with perfect pitch, although she has never had formal lessons. She is conveniently at a recently rebranded “Campus for Baccalaureate and Performing Arts,” despite having a nearly pathological desire to avoid the piano at the beginning of the novel. Readers who can get past these contrivances will be rewarded with a layered and thoughtful contemporary novel. The push and pull between what is perceived and what is true throughout the narrative adds another dimension to the unreliable first-person narration as readers and Bea contemplate Rossi’s agenda. VERDICT Despite some heavy-handed moments, Ohlin delivers an open-ended novel ripe for discussion as readers follow the plot’s twists and turns.
– School Library Journal, September 2015
An insecure piano prodigy falls for her dashing music teacher in Ohlin’s contemporary novel. Seventeen-year-old Bea is used to pretending. She pretends her workaholic father cares about her. She pretends enthusiasm for her best friend Plum’s plan for them to attend Harvard together. She pretends her piano playing is just a hobby, and she’s already labeled her dream of attending a conservatory as unattainable. Dane Rossi, her handsome new music teacher, changes all that. Having attended Juilliard and toured Europe as a pianist, Dane recognizes Bea’s talent and encourages her to develop it. Bea blossoms under his tutelage; it seems inevitable that she’ll fall in love, as “accidental” touches progress into passionate kisses and, eventually, sex. Seen from Bea’s naive viewpoint, the book reads almost like a romance, but readers will wonder about Dane’s past long before Bea does, giving the story an uncomfortable edge. Bea learns about “age of consent” the hard way yet gains self-confidence by the story’s end. A morally complex novel good for discussions with older students.
– Booklist, November 1, 2015
“Consent is as delicate, as profound and as subtle as the music that gifted young pianist Beatrice plays in moments of near-mystical inspiration. Nancy Ohlin tackles a very delicate subject with so much wisdom, so much clear-eyed honesty, and such a deft touch that I was blown away. A quick read you can’t put down.”
– Michael Grant, bestselling author of GONE
Beais a piano prodigy with dark secrets hidden behind a façade of normalcy, and as she enters her senior year she begins to feel isolated by her lies. When her dashing music history teacher encourages her talent, it is almost inevitable that she will fall in love with him. He falls for her, too, and they develop a relationship that skitters around the edges of appropriateness. With college application deadlines looming, he encourages her to play for Julliard. Buoyed by his affection, she agrees, and they go to New York for a weekend. There, they consummate their affair and plan a future together. Upon their return home,they try to avoid each other until after Bea’s eighteenth birthday, but ultimately succumb to their desires and have a tryst in a school music room. They are observed and reported by Bea’s jealous ex, and it is uncovered that Mr. Rossi has had affairs with students at previous teaching engagements.
Consent gives teens a safe space to explore their feelings about difficult issues without moralizing or underestimating their capacity for complexity. High school students will be simultaneously swept off their feet and horrified by the romance taking shape. The arbitrary nature of state consent laws is examined, as are the emotional ramifications of having an affair with someone who is abusing their authority. This book will appeal to teens who enjoy dark realism and romance. The inclusion of music history anecdotes and multi-cultural characters adds welcome layers of depth.—Liz Sundermann.
– VOYA, December 2015
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- Author Photo (jpg): Nancy Ohlin Photograph by Emma Dodge Hanson.(0.1 MB)
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