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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Musician's Daughter* by Susanne Dunlap- young adult book review
The Musician's Daughter
by Susanne Dunlap
Grades 7+ 336 pages Bloomsbury USA December 2008 Hardcover    

Fifteen-year-old Theresa Maria lives an idyllic life. The oldest daughter of a musician father, she lives at Prince Nicholas Esterhazy's court and spends her days listening to the music of Franz Joseph Haydn, her father's conductor. She loves her lessons on the viola but dreams of the time when, like her beloved father, she can play the violin in the orchestra. Her days are filled with teasing her younger brother, Toby, and spending time with her handsome friend, Zoltan.

Everything changes in an instant the night three men bring a large black bag into her house. The bag carries her father, who has been murdered. Theresa's mother, nearly ready to give birth to her third child, goes into shock, refusing to eat or speak, leaving the survival of the household to Theresa. As she tries to pick up the pieces left by her father's tragic death, she makes two important discoveries: he was in posession of a strange gold medallion, and someone has stolen his violin.

Believing these two facts hold the keys to her father's murder, Theresa is determined to find out the truth. With the help of Zoltan and his sister, Alida, Theresa follows the clues left by her father. They lead her to startling revelations about her friends and her father, plunging her deeply into the dangerous politics of Vienna and Hungary in the 18th century. When her brother is kidnapped, she must fight to save him from the same ruthless people who killed her father.

The Musician's Daughter has a wide and varied cast of characters, ranging from the composer Franz Joseph Haydn to the Romany girl Mirela. Theresa is an engaging, resourceful heroine who never shies away from jumping in headfirst. Often in danger, she luckily always has a friend or admirer around to help her escape. It would have been nice to see some of the major characters fleshed out more, rather than simply including them as catalysts for the action in the novel, but that is a small complaint.

As for that action, it is present in abundance as Theresa and her friends travel through Vienna and the surrounding countryside in pursuit of her goal. The mystery of who killed her father is actually unraveled by mid-novel, and the rest of the book is spent trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. At times, the ease with which their plans come together seems unlikely, but the author does throw up a few roadblocks to their success, making the story seem a bit more realistic. Dunlap includes quite a bit of historical detail about 18th-century Vienna as well as the Romany people, which will be very interesting to readers unfamiliar with those subjects.

In general, this is a good young adult novel. Its few flaws are minor, easy to overlook in light of the entertaining story. The Musician's Daughter is a fun read, sure to find a wide range of fans.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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