Many teenagers have, at one time or another, felt like Steffi. Fifteen year old Steffi is one of two main characters in this book. Every day at school is painful for her due to bullying by other students. Like many, her interest in one particular thing, for her it’s jazz music, is the only thing that keeps her going. From verbal abuse, including on the internet, to her musical instruments being deliberately wrecked, Steffi sometimes finds it hard to cope with the vicious nature of her peers.
When Steffi meets an unexpected man, her life changes. Alvar is an older man who lives at the local retirement village she passes daily on her way to school. Steffi hears the jazz music he plays, in particular, her favourite song and goes to investigate. He has grown up inspired with jazz music. Their unconventional friendship develops as Alvar, reminiscing of his youth, encourages her follow her dream and aim to go to a music school in the distant city of Stockholm.
Much of the story revolves around Alvar’s life when he was a young boy in Sweden during World War II, retelling of how different life was and his struggle to become a musician. Bit by bit Alvar reveals more of his life to Steffi. In fact, this strikes such a chord with Steffi, that she uses much of what he tells her as the basis for an assignment, weaving life and music of the period together.
Alvar comes to Steffi’s aid by encouraging her parents to allow her to audition for music school, however on the day Steffi is not sure that she has made enough of an impression to gain entrance. In many ways Alvar’s back story permeates the whole book, with his influence on Steffi often profound. She learns to cope with the bullies by setting up her own anonymous website and sees her peers from their own perception.
What will her future bring?
If music is one of your loves, then this book will delight you. Regardless, it is a story of inspiration, an easy and feel good read. The fact that it took me some time to complete is in no way a reflection on the book itself. Sometimes life gets in the way. If you want to have your faith in people restored, this is an uplifting read for either a young person or adult.