Recognition: Starred Entry in CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens
Author Jeff Ross brings the same care to describing Will’s love of music as he does to Will’s anxiety and fear of performing. The focus of this novel is on the weeks that Will spends at the summer camp, and it really is all about music for this 15-year-old. All of the students attending the camp are very serious about pursuing musical careers and talk about composers like Mozart and Paganini as easily as most teens would discuss popular music or sports. Some of the attendees are less welcoming than others, but Will manages to make friends with the other three in his quartet. As he gets to know them, he learns more about himself and how important playing the violin is to him. Once Will makes connections with the other students, he starts to feel more comfortable playing in a group with them, but when the instructors notice his musical gifts and ask him to perform for the larger group, his stage fright becomes overwhelming. The chapters of the novel which deal with his anxiety are rivetting, and Will endures a roller coaster of failures and miniature successes before he is able to perform for the larger group.
At Ease is a short novel covering only the weeks that Will attends the summer camp, but the strengths – the development of strong friendships and the way he conquers his stage fright – make perfect sense because he is immersed in this unique situation where he is forced to perform regularly and see these kids all day in close quarters. This also allows the reader to get to know Will quickly so, when he succeeds in his performances and is offered the chance to audition at Julliard, it feels just as good as reading a book where a whole team pulls off a championship win. Jeff Ross has pulled together a novel that takes the reader on an exciting journey even though a large part of the action takes place inside a classrooms and rehearsal studios so it would appeal to fans of musical study and beyond. (CM MAGAZINE)
Penny McGill is a library assistant with an enthusiastic reading habit at the Waterloo Public Library in Waterloo, ON.
At fifteen, Will already knows he wants to spend his life playing classical violin. And when he is invited to take part in a summer program for young musicians, he realizes it is a chance to make his dream a reality. But years of playing only for Mr. Jorgensen, his elderly neighbor and mentor, haven’t prepared Will for what will happen when he steps onto the stage. He never expected the self-doubt that takes over his thoughts, or the fear of failure that makes his hands shake and his heart race. What happens when the one thing you need to achieve your dreams is something you find utterly terrifying?
Where it came from: My eldest son plays violin and though he doesn't have any issues performing, I have seen other members of his studio crumble under the pressure of standing on a stage. In my role as a professor, I often teach interview and presentation skills and see well spoken and interesting students fall apart in front of a class. At Ease came from my conversations with violinist James Ehnes and my research into ways people can lower performance anxiety whether it is giving a speech or a musical performance.