book reviews

A book I wish I could forget by Cynthia Salaysay aka a review of Private Lessons

Hello everyone! I finally finished this book and oh god I wish I hadn’t. I never rate a book 1 star but this was the most 1 star book I have ever read (in my opinion of course). I went in having absolutely no idea what would happen, expecting some nice story about a piano player and then… this happened. Yikes. I will be copying my review from Goodreads just because I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this book and also because I’ve already wasted enough time on it. This will not be long, because otherwise I would be here screaming and ranting forever.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Title: Private Lessons

Author: Cynthia Salaysay

Genre: YA contemporary

Publisher: candlewick press

Date published: May 12 2020

Rep: Filipino main character, Vietnamese side character (I think)

Length: 320 pages

Content warning: rape and graphic sex scenes, underage sex and a big (big) age gap, death of a parent, smoking, drinking, and cancer.

Find this book on Goodreads


In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes. (side note, there are already so many wrong things with this)

After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father’s death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection.

Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace. (no.) (“complicated student/teacher relationship” oh MY GOD)

*Thank you to Netgalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Friendly reminder that I review the book, not the author. This is not in any way a personal attack toward the author.

I could talk about this book forever but I’m going to put it as bullet points so that it doesn’t get too long:

  • nothing happens in this book. the entire 320 pages of this – no spoilers – have a whole 3 or 4 main events that basically have no impact over anyone whatsoever and that the reader doesn’t care about either.
  • the writing is mediocre
  • the main character is very annoying: a terrible daughter and a terrible friend. She also makes terrible choices.
  • the other characters are flat and inconsequential, except Paul who I liked at first but then… not, it just got weird (obviously)
  • the first half of this book was bad, but the second half? I quite frankly wish I would forget it
  • ew. just. teacher-student, 17-50ish year olds sexual bits, no thank you
  • even the same age sexual bits weren’t nice. at. all
  • I didn’t understand at all the point of making the main character “not care about piano” and making her “just do it for college applications” if that part is (1) not mentioned in the rest of the book (2) has nothing to do with anything that happens in the rest of the book and (3) make her care a lot about her piano classes and competitions
  • I was uncomfortable the whole entire time reading this. I have read a whole book after and I’m still not over it
  • I could talk more about the whole underage sex/rape thing but I (1) don’t want to relive it because I quite frankly just want to forget it, (2) I don’t want to give away any spoilers and most importantly (3) I would end up screaming in disgusted frustration forever.

All in all, please don’t read this. It will both be a waste of your time and will leave you scarred forever. I cannot begin to explain how many wrong things there are in this book, and I’ll now start the process of erasing it from my memory forever.

To all those who DNFed (and there are quite a lot of you): you made the right choice there and saved yourself.

5 thoughts on “A book I wish I could forget by Cynthia Salaysay aka a review of Private Lessons

  1. Yikes, ouch, and my goodness D: I’m sorry it was such a terrible experience for you. Just reading the review, points, and content warnings puts me off.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A saving grace for any controversial or amoral fictional things happening can usually be swallowed with a pound of salt IF, and only IF what comes from them are stronger characters and a story that recognizes how bad Mmm,Kay those things were. But when amoral things occur in narratives with little to no connective tissue afterward or beforehand is abhorrent. Thank you for being a trooper and reading through any of it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s