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The Notes - YA

My Review:

5 Stars

The Notes is a beautiful, emotional YA novel that portrays well the hardships of pursuing a passion for classical music, but the message can be applied to all arts and sports that require a good balance between practice and pushing farther. Being Asian, Claire and other Asian students of this art high school need to work hard to guarantee a spot in the best colleges of art and music, but the path is not gentle and it can lead to an abysm.

On top of that, there are the traditional expectations that Asian students must excel without ever complaining or asking for professional help to deal with the pressure.

I loved the relationship between students supporting each other, the hint of a thriller when one student adopts a stalker attitude, the friendships and the love interest, the classical music, the interaction between the students of different areas, their life at the dorms, and how they worked together facing art with professionalism. Competition is fierce, each one has strengths and qualities, and even a teacher can be strict but still human, wanting to be better at something in a healthy manner.

The self-harm scene and tense situations were handled very well by the author. 

@tbrbeyondtours & @cathconmorse  #TheNotes #TBRBeyondTours #CatherineConMorse

Book Info:

The Notes by Catherine Con Morse

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishing Date: April 30, 2024



A reserved Chinese American teen at a Southern performing arts boarding school comes into her own under the tutelage of a glamorous new piano teacher. A moving coming-of-age-novel from a debut novelist about first love, adolescent angst, and academic pressures.

Claire Wu isn’t sure that she has what it takes to become a successful concert pianist.

It’s the fear of every student at Greenwood School of Performing becoming a washed-out performer who couldn’t make it big. And Claire’s no Rocky Wong, the ace pianist at their boarding school.

Then Dr. Li shows up. She’s like no other teacher at mysterious, sophisticated, fascinating. Under Dr. Li’s tutelage, Claire works harder and dreams bigger than ever. And her crush Rocky finally seems interested. Maybe she’ll even be “Chinese enough” to join the elusive Asian Student Society.

Everything is falling into place until eerily personal notes about Claire’s bond with Dr. Li appear. Claire starts to feel the pressure. But she isn’t the only one. Everyone is feeling the strain. Especially Rocky, whose extreme perfectionism hides something more troubling.

As the Showcase tension crescendos, Claire must decide if she’s ready to sink or swim. She may discover who she really is as a Chinese American and learn if she’s ready to give her all for a shot at greatness.

The Notes is a powerful and poignant debut YA novel from award-winning writer Catherine Con Morse about dealing with academic pressures, falling in love for the first time, and finding yourself.


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About the Author:

Catherine Con Morse is the author of the coming-of-age boarding school novel THE NOTES, which was shortlisted for the CRAFT first chapters contest. A Kundiman fellow, she received her MFA from Boston University, where she taught undergraduate creative writing for several years. Her work appears in Joyland, Letters, HOOT, Bostonia, the Racist Sandwich podcast, and elsewhere. Catherine was one of the inaugural Writers in Residence at Porter Square Books.


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