The air is getting sweeter and each day brings us closer to a summer in the city. I’m fully vaxxed and looking forward to enjoying the beauty of the community and Chicago over the next couple of months. If you simply can’t wait that long, “Night Music” by Jenn Marie Thorne will have to suffice. A super sweet romance with a Black love interest, this book has had me captivated for years. After about three reads, I’m ready to give you all a spoiler-free review, so pay attention!
Ruby Chertok, 17, is NYC classical music royalty, but sadly doesn’t maintain the same talent the rest of her family does. Her soul-searching summer is interrupted by the arrival of Oscar Bell, a composition genius her age studying under her father. They slowly fall for each other and endure the pressure of elite institutions begging for Oscar’s talent and peers with high expectations for Ruby. Admissions scandals, family fights, and lots of music ensue, leading to a crescendo so vivid you feel like you’re sitting in Lincoln Center alongside the maestro himself. I won’t give away much, but I will say that you can expect a happy ending.
One thing I appreciate about this book is the attention it gives to Oscar’s race. Instead of neglecting to acknowledge his Blackness, they highlight the stereotypes people put him in, and the discomfort in his experience. A racist employee at a bakery tries to turn him away, a news anchor erases his achievements with a fake “hood” backstory in an interview; Oscar’s talent shines against those who try to put him in a box. This is particularly relevant today, and concludes with Oscar and his network advocating for him and standing up against opponents.
This doesn’t distract from the summery sweetness of this novel. Each read goes by quickly, filled with dizzying descriptions of New York CIty in the summer and peppered with details from Ruby’s life. Readers get insights to her family’s rituals, favorite spots and routine in a familiar way. As she comes into her own, her love story doesn’t overpower her own strength, which makes for a beautiful journey to watch. Whether you’re a fan of coming of age, classical music or all of the above, this book is the one for you! Check it out now on the Libby app, or wherever you buy your books.
By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young High School