Friday, December 31, 2021

Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay


PRIVATE LESSONS was a tough read because it's about a teacher taking advantage of a student, but it's also a story of a girl's coming of age and dealing with her loneliness, insecurities, and inability to fit in. Books like these always make me feel extra haunted because I really see myself in vulnerable female protagonists like Claire. When I was in high school, I was also very driven and very lonely. I had pretty bad anxiety and I channeled it into my school work and my music (I was also a music student), and I did well, but I was still unhappy.

Claire works so hard to please her music teacher, Paul, but the way he withholds praise makes her feel bad and pick apart her playing until she half-drives herself mad. As music consumes her life, she pushes her friends and her mother away. A bad sexual experience makes her insecure about her appearance and her love life. So when her teacher begins to act less like a teacher and oversteps the boundaries between teacher and student, it's basically the perfect recipe for disaster.

I feel like in some ways this book is similar to MY DARK VANESSA. It's not quite as gritty or disturbing-- it's a MDV for the YA set. I liked the elements of Filipinx culture embedded into the story and I felt like the author did a great job showing how she lashed out or pushed people away to subvert her own feelings. I also felt like in addition to being a sort of #MeToo story, the book did a good job showing some of the microaggressions Asian Americans face and how Asia is treated as a monolith.

This book wasn't quite what I was expecting and I think it would have impressed me more as a teen, but it's still very well written and it spoke to my inner-teen me and her passion for music.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

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