I have two kiddos who've played violin for about a dozen years, so reading this was...interesting.
Mainly, it made me really glad my two were much older when they tackled Mozart and never did a competition like this, just because of some of the unrealistic pressures put on the main character, Allegra. Both her parents are string players. Even her name, allegro, is an Italian music term, meaning fast and lively. Throughout the book she refers to her parents as Mommy and Daddy, and that, more than anything else, really emphasized her young age and was heartbreaking.
Allegra sends in an audition tape for the Bloch Competition, and discovers she's the youngest finalist. She commits to practicing for the competition for an entire summer, and the story is about how she does this, with the help (or hindrance, you'll see -- it's in part how she interprets his instructions) of her teacher.
But complicating things is a singer with bipolar disorder (and who lost a child and her husband as a result) who comes to visit Allegra's parents while performing. The woman has a couple of episodes with Allegra in attendance, and Allegra struggles to process what she's seeing in addition to her music.
As the pressure mounts, Allegra mounts her bike -- going for secret, midnight rides around their neighborhood.
The finalists kinda figure out who each other are by listening / hearing each other play the competition piece in the silent moments between practices with the local youth orchestra. And Allegra fills in for one finalist, when the girl breaks her wrists/ hands in an accident.
They're all thrown together for a radio interview, and get trapped on the elevator on the way down right before the big performance and...
I won't spoil how it ends. The ending was appropriate.
What I did feel was missing were the hours and hours of practice the girl had to have done. They're mentioned, but in passing, and it give the impression, on some pages, of skimming over practice. Practicing is perhaps the hardest part of learning a string instrument, the part that all kids rebel against and resist.
This is an interesting read for any string players in your family, or even if you're just interested in finding out what a life as a musician would be like. Books are windows and mirrors, and this is a wide open window.