"Full of not only sigh-inducing swoons but the social commentary [Thorne] is talented at writing." Paste
Music was Ruby's first love, but did it ever love her back? After a nightmare audition at the music school where her famous father teaches, the answer to this question is unavoidable. And so, it seems, is Oscar Bell. Musical genius, YouTube sensation, and her dad's new protégé, Oscar is the last person Ruby needs in her life. Being around him feels dangerously like being with her first love againexcept music never kissed her like this. Oscar is falling for Ruby too, but he knows how it'll look to the ultra-privileged, ultra-white world of classical musica Black guy dating his mentor's white daughter. As the New York City summer heats up, though, so does the spark between them. Can two people still figuring themselves out figure out how to be together? And will Ruby get over her first love in time to save what she has with her second?
"Delightful...Hits all the right notes." Mackenzi Lee, author of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
"Seriously swoony...I loved it." Rachel Hawkins, author of Royals
"Sweet and intense...[An] engrossing romance with a social conscience." Kirkus
"Utterly romantic." Tanaz Bhathena, author of A Girl Like That
"Full of heart and humor. It crackles with energy." Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of Picture Us in the Light
"Timely and romantic." Publishers Weekly
"Beautiful, heartfelt, aware, and raw." Lauren Gibaldi, author of This Tiny Perfect World
"Thoughtful, nuanced." Booklist
|Product dimensions:||6.04(w) x 5.04(h) x 1.13(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
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A stranger was playing my piano. My piano, untouched for months, purring under his fingers like a stray cat. More than purring . . . singing, leaping, laughing, dying, all in the time it took me to stumble-run downstairs.
I stared into the dusty living room from the bottom step, not trusting my eyes—my ears even less. But there he was, half standing while he played, one knee on the bench, like this was a quick errand he’d needed to run.
A boy. Tall, lean, angular, skin rich brown, hair a supernova of spirals backlit by afternoon sun.
He was staring at me.
“Do you like it?” he called.
Was this a hallucination? A musical one?
“You play really well,” I got out.
Nobody was supposed to touch my piano. Not me, not anybody.
Not a stranger in my house.
He was still going—softly now, relentless, the key shifting. “But the piece?”
My eyes darted to our tall many-paned windows, the big oak doors—open to the stoop. How had he gotten in? “I—I’m trying to figure out what it is. I know it’s Bach, but . . .”
He hopped with delight, not missing a single note. “Not Bach. But oh my God, that you thought so . . .”
He grinned, so relaxed and weirdly familiar that everything seemed to readjust like it does in a dream, making me wonder if he lived here and I was visiting. He had a single dimple, an easy smile—what was happening?
Chatter from West Seventy-first Street filtered into the living room and away. I took a step closer. A better look.
My age—seventeen, eighteen?—dressed like an August issue of GQ. Short-sleeved striped button-down, royal-blue bow tie, neatly pressed chinos, a canvas belt. He was definitely real. Hyperreal.
This couldn’t be an intervention. Nobody could have been tone-deaf enough to send a brilliant pianist here to tempt me to change my mind. Could he be some stalker fan of Dad’s or Mom’s, or Win’s or—was it pure coincidence? Had I just . . . left the door open behind me and he’d seen the piano? Or, or, or . . .
My staring must finally have gotten to him, because he bobbled the first note in twelve thousand. He took his hands off the keyboard, a magician before the reveal.
“Want another try?” His bright eyes locked on mine.
I didn’t. I didn’t want to talk about music at all. But I didn’t want to lose whatever game this was either
His eyebrows rose. “Damn, going for the deep cuts.” Then he rubbed his cheek, relaxing his shoulders, falling marginally mortal.
“Bell?” I eyed him warily. “Elizabeth? Or . . . it really doesn’t sound like Iain Be—”
“Oscar Bell.” He closed the distance, extending his hand. “Nice to—”
I edged away. “You composed that.”
He shrugged. Cocky.
“That’s your fugue.” A snort burst out of me. “Okay.”
“I could sketch it out for you.” He glanced around, miming scribbling. “I should start writing this shit down anyway.”
Before he even finished saying it, his knee was back on the bench, fingers back on the keys, repeating the first movement, adding another voice, another and another as if it were as simple as breathing.
I didn’t realize I’d been backing up until I hit Mom’s Steinway across the room. I flinched away like her piano was a hot pipe.
“Course not.” His eyes danced up to meet mine, teasing. “I came up with it on the ride over.”
Now that I looked out through the front bay windows, I saw an SUV taxi idling at the curb, back hatch open.
“Sorry if I surprised you.” The boy’s voice dropped into a different register. “Mr.—uh, Marty just said to come say hi to Ruby.”
I closed my eyes, letting out a slow breath. He knew Dad. Of course.
“I’m hoping you’re Ruby? But right now I’m thinking you’re not.”
“What? I’m her. Me,” I said as Dad’s voice bellowed from the street, “Carry it down there and put it by the door, that’s good!”
This guy—“it’s Bell”—was still staring at me.
I shrugged, flustered. “Why wouldn’t I be Ruby?”
“I don’t know. You seem older, so I thought maybe you were another of his students. And . . .”
Another of his students? Since when did Dad have his own students?
“The way he talked about you—I thought you’d be short?”
I let out a startled laugh, then glanced down. All five foot eight of me was draped in black—black ballet flats, black yoga pants, black sleep top, black cardigan, its black sleeves covering my hands to the fingertips. With my pasty face and long dark hair frizzing loose, I must have looked like something out of a micro-budget horror movie.
But Oscar extended his hand again. “Sorry. Let’s . . . I mean—I’m Oscar Bell. Nice to meet you.”
“Ruby. Chertok,” I said, sliding my palm into his. “Pleasure to . . . um . . .”
He smiled, lips parted as if he wanted to finish my sentence for me. His hand was sturdier than most pianists’—warm and smooth, except for his rough fingertips.
“You’ve met! Fantastic!” Dad filled the doorway, six foot two, wild white hair, pink forehead, nose, cheeks, gray beard, arms and legs and trunk like an oak. He strode forward with his hands out and I thought for a second he wanted a hug before he zigged left and clapped Oscar on the shoulders. “This is our prodigy.”
“Ah, I don’t know about that.” Oscar looked at the floor—smiling.
He knew about that. He knew all about that.
“Found him on YouTube,” Dad said, leaning against Mom’s piano like it didn’t burn his skin at all. “Can you believe it? I love the Internet, love it.”
Outside, the scrawniest kids I’d ever seen were lugging furniture into our basement apartment from the trunks of what now looked to be a line of taxis. A desk, twin bed, chair, low bookshelf, all of it the same dorm-room pine.
Dad laughed. “What are the odds of somebody like you going to the same school as Nora Visser’s niece?”
Oscar’s body wavered like a struck string.
Dad whapped him. “A once in a lifetime musical prodigy with a family connection to our board chair! Uncanny.”
“Yes! I mean, thank you.” Oscar beamed back, height restored.
I tapped the window. “Dad, are those Amberley kids? Why are they—what’s with the bed?”
Dad glanced over his shoulder. “They’re moving Oscar in. I found them lazing around the common room and they volunteered to help.”
Of course they did. They’d go dumpster diving if the great Martin Chertok asked them to.
Then I turned. “Wait—what? Moving Oscar . . . ?”
“He’ll stay in the basement apartment this summer. The dorms were full and we’re between tenants—it’s kismet!”
We’d been “between tenants” for eight years, since my brother Leo got his spot with the Boston Symphony. We stored our luggage down there now. And here it was, coming back up the stone steps, one empty roller bag at a time being hauled by a bespectacled teenager wearing a T-shirt that said: Oboe You Di’int.
“Thank you again for this, sir.” Oscar’s voice was suddenly neutral, the light drawl I’d noticed gone. “I’m so honored to have the chance to study with you. The New City Symphony completely changed my—”
“The honor’s mine.” Dad waved away the compliment, turning so that all I could see was his wall of a back. “I love new talent, it’s what keeps me going.” He pointed to the piano. “What was it I heard you playing a second ago?”
“What we were talking about in the car,” Oscar said, scratching his hair so it bent like a crown and sprang back up. “The baroqueness of the bridge, you know? I wanted to try it out.”
The baroqueness. Of the bridge.
Oscar traced the keys and then started the melody again, lightly, carelessly. Perfectly.
Even without seeing Dad’s face, I could sense the reverence on it. He tapped the piano lid. “This is going to be a good summer.”
This summer. In my house. The summer I was supposed to find solace, clarity, a series of days that had nothing to do with music.
Mr. Prodigy—Oscar—was still playing, oblivious to all damage. His song surrounded me, a trap, one strand slipping around the other
I was in motion. To the coat-tree. The porcelain key bowl. Bag, keys, ponytail holder into hair, me into the sweltering street. The music trailed me out, Oscar Bell’s voice following after.
“Oh. Hey, sorry if . . . It was nice to meet you, Ruby!”
Never missing a note.
Excerpted from "Night Music"
Copyright © 2019 Jenn Marie Thorne.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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