eBook, Fiction, Romance, YA

Girl, Unstrung by Claire Handscombe is a pleasant contemporary YA novel that shows needed love to violists

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girl, Unstrung is a contemporary YA book about Clara, a high school freshman who has three siblings and semi-famous parents in her blended family. She auditioned as a violist to attend LACHSA, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, but did not make it in. Clara is determined to get into LACHSA next year, since the school only auditions rising freshmen and sophomores, but first she has to make sure she doesn’t get distracted by a cute guy at her current high school. The book follows Clara’s point-of-view.

I was excited to see that she played the viola, which doesn’t get as much love as its more sophisticated cousin, the violin (as Clara describes it). The book seems to be set in the same universe as Handscombe’s adult romance Unscripted, which occurs before the events of Girl, Unstrung. I find it interesting that, while keeping with romance as a theme, Handscombe has spanned genres between YA and adult fiction with this universe.

Clara definitely acts like a typical high schooler, so her voice felt authentic to me. She has the typical self-centeredness of a teenager, but also checks herself from time to time and calls herself out on this issue. This is most present when she is trying to figure out how she feels and acts around her new step-mother.

Clara’s main growth arc is about her obsessiveness with the viola and her struggle with feeling like she is “enough.” Her entire family is full of artists; her mom and dad are both actors and her step-mother acts and teaches ballet. She wants to get into Julliard someday (where here dad went to college), and she believes that the only way to get there (as she notes in her bullet journal) is to get into LACHSA first. She practices her viola for three or more hours a day at her peak.

While I enjoyed reading this book, I do think it may have been a little too long. The chapters themselves are fairly short, and potato-chip-y. However, there are some recaps within the book where Clara mentions something that was said ten or so chapters before that I don’t think needed to be rehashed. That being said, Handscombe is wonderful at writing prose and I’m excited to read more from her.

I received an advanced ebook copy of this book for review via NetGalley, but all opinions contained herein are my own. I really enjoyed Handscombe’s prose in this novel, but even for an advanced reader copy, this sure had a ton of formatting and grammatical errors. I sincerely hope that they are fixed before the book is released on November 23, 2021.

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