Perfect Harmony

Young Adult - Mystery
223 Pages
Reviewed on 06/16/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

It’s 1976 and Harmony McVeigh has a love for music. She has a musical name, but she was actually named after her father’s boat. Harmony’s rise to fame begins with Chopin and the fervor of a music teacher inspired by the nineteenth-century great piano composer. In Claire Doyle’s Perfect Harmony, Harmony is a teenager from the tiny Scottish island of Cumbrae and she’s a semi-finalist in a national TV talent show, Young Faces. However, it’s not Chopin that garners national attention, but rather a song Harmony wrote after a summer trip to Mallorca. Her song Summer in Mallorca attracts national attention and she’s more than just dancing in the hall to her tune with her grandmother. She faces mystery, intrigue, and romance, but there’s no place like home and Grandma.

Claire Doyle’s young adult novel, Perfect Harmony, is a sweet, cozy mystery full of a passion for music. The plot follows young Harmony’s rise to fame as she comes of age and faces challenges she never expected before. The narrative reads like musical lyrics, as in the works of Leonard Cohen and Michael Ondaatje. Disparate characters are brought together, well developed in the author’s fluid and sometimes sensuous prose. The scenes are described with flair and tenacity, allowing the reader to feel part of the story. It’s a fast-paced, homey story that will attract young adult readers, especially those with a love for music. This is an engaging and entertaining read, but also a work of literary genius. I always enjoy a good musical mystery. Well done!

Grant Leishman

Perfect Harmony by Claire Doyle is a wonderfully sweet and nostalgic journey down memory lane to a simpler time before the internet and the frenetic pace of today. It is the summer of 1976 and Great Britain is experiencing an unprecedented heatwave. On the small Scottish island of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, teenager and shy high school student Harmony McVeigh is facing one of her biggest challenges in life. She is a music student with two big hopes and dreams in life; attending the Scottish Royal Academy of Music and Drama and writing a number one song. She longs to be a songwriter above all else for one simple reason; she hates performing and she is terrified of singing and playing for an audience. She has been entered into the national TV talent show, Young Faces, and against all odds she has made it to the semi-finals mainly thanks to her dedicated music teacher, with whom she is secretly in love. Even to progress on the television show she has required a hypnotist to help with performance anxiety. With the show’s final just one week away, Harmony joins a school geography trip to Majorca where she inadvertently discovers a secret that will have an enormous bearing on her future and the television show.

Perfect Harmony is a coming-of-age novel that explores the motivations and talents of a young prodigy as she seeks to discover her true talents and abilities. Author Claire Doyle has perfectly captured the opposing forces that many teenagers face as they explore the limits of their abilities and their environment. Harmony is so unsure of her true talent and her natural ability that it is a joy to watch it unfold, especially on a national stage. I loved the juxtaposition of a young woman who just wants to experience her first kiss, have a boyfriend, and enjoy her freedom before entering college, with the weight of expectation and hopes of an entire nation being placed on her shoulders. Even her chief opposition in the contest, Annie London, has a name that exploits this nationalistic meme. The musical theme, background, and era of the story give readers a wonderfully nostalgic feel as they recall the songs and singers of the day and their memories of where they were and what they were doing at the time. The intimate writing style takes the reader deep inside Harmony’s thought processes and her maturity and self-doubts are fully displayed on her journey of self-discovery. This is a relaxing and cozy story that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Manik Chaturmutha

Perfect Harmony by Claire Doyle is rife with musical passion as it follows Harmony McVeigh's journey in achieving her goal to be number one on the charts. Set against the backdrop of Scotland's mesmerizing scenery, the story is a gripping tale of melodic obsession coupled with challenges dealing with high-profile deceit, deception, and corruption. The author portrays Harmony's anxiety and fear as she tries to overcome her shyness and perform in Young Faces, a famous talent show. With the help of her tutor Fred, who shares her love for Frédéric Chopin, Harmony prepares for her journey to the final rounds of the performance. She must conquer her stage fright and anxiety to show her genuine talent while safeguarding her creativity from being imitated. The struggles of a music enthusiast are highlighted as the novel weaves a tale of musical creativity finally being recognized.

A brisk pace moves the plot forward without pause, keeping the focus firmly on Harmony's journey. The author's vivid descriptions paint a breathtaking picture of Scotland and its isles, inviting readers to marvel at its beauty. The narrative subtly weaves in references to the tumultuous history of England and Scotland, adding depth to the story. Additionally, the novel depicts the unity within the family, particularly the relationship between Harmony and her father as she pursues her singing career, alongside the support from the islanders, which forms an important part of her identity. This wholesome theme adds diversity to the story, highlighting the significance of family values, which play a crucial role. Presented from Harmony's perspective, the narrative introduces us to the emotions and ambitions that she copes with to achieve her dreams. The inclusion of romance as a subplot adds to the novel's appeal, involving Harmony's, Fred's, and Lorraine's relationships. Overall, Perfect Harmony by Claire Doyle is a riveting story that is a must-read for music enthusiasts.