Genre: Teen Fiction
Intended Audience: Young Adults
Intended length: 60,000 words.
Following an incident with his psychotic mother, Alex is sent off to Aspendale by his father to protect him. His mother, a gifted musician, burned his hands to “straighten” them, so he’d become a better cellist.
There, Alex meets Lacey, a small-town girl with big dreams, who has been vying for a spot at Julliard all her life. She proposes a deal to Alex: if he helps her with her audition tape, she would show him what life is beyond music and strict upbringing. Their shared passions bring them together, and Alex feels conflicted about his emotions towards Lacey. He’s never felt this strongly about anything except his music. However, she doesn’t seem to see him as more than a friend, and despite how he feels, he doesn’t want to force anything on her.
Disheartened by her rejection, he seeks comfort in a phone call to his mother, who has been recovering in an institute in Australia. Her recovery might be a rocky road, and her advice may not make complete sense, but Alex is glad she is doing okay. Even if he cannot bear the sight of her without reflecting on the scars he wears, Alex is dealing with his emotions as best as he can in his own therapy sessions. He feels guilt for wishing the worst on his own mother, and dread when he faces the reality that he would have to live under the same roof as her again.
When Julliard calls Lacey for the second phase of admissions, it compels Alex to tell her the truth: he’s admitted to the program without an audition. In fact, his name has been on the list since he was only twelve. Feeling hurt by his lack of transparency, Lacey steps back from their friendship. The senior year ends, and Alex returns home to New York, where his recovered mother waits for him. In theory, Alex has forgiven her, but in reality, he finds himself wary around her. They eventually work things out when they have a heart to heart and cry over the years of trauma. Slowly mending their relationship, Alex spills his heartbreak to her, and finally, Clara can provide him the comfort he desperately needs. They bond over a fresh piece Alex was working on and can slowly work on finding their place together as a family.
To make things right with Lacey, Alex asks Clara to send a recommendation letter for her and to ensure she has an excellent chance of getting into her dream school. When Lacey finds out, she reaches out and apologizes to him for her hostility, and offers friendship again. While he holds no resentment over her rejection, Alex does not feel emotionally equipped to handle more uncertain relationships in his life and makes the choice to let Lacey go.
Major Plotlines/Arcs to conclusion
- Alex discovers that his passion for music isn’t going to lead him to insanity like his mother, eventually allowing himself to be comfortable with who he is.
*Alex’s unrequited love for Lacey is painful and the opportunity to be friends with her again is tempting, but he can’t do it. He’s only started patching up his unstable relationship with Clara, and to bring another anomaly in his life would not be a wise decision for him
- Clara and Alex’s fractured relationship coming back on track slowly as they learn to manage her psychosis better.
- The story focuses on how a mental health issue is not only for the suffering person to deal with but also for the entire family and everyone around them.
- Getting Alex and Lacey in a relationship might have been obvious, given that I was targeting teenagers, and that’s what seems to be a popular choice, but I realized while writing that Lacey and Alex are only good together in the music room. Outside of it, Alex might be too intense for Lacey and it might drive them down some very destructive paths.
- Alex’s inner monologue is important in the story. He talks at length of artists and creative geniuses and how they’re always meeting tragic ends. Their mental illnesses may seem romanticized throughout history (Van Gogh, Beethoven, Zelda Fitzgerald) but when seen up close, mental illnesses can be devastating. He worries in the back of his mind that his mother is not one of those people who puts her head in the oven, or walks into a river with stones in her pocket.
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