Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral’s young adult novel Chopsticks (Penguin/Razorbill, February 2012) tells the story of seventeen-year-old piano prodigy Gloria Fleming. Lonely Glory seems to have little in her life but her music and her demanding father/teacher; her mother died several years ago. Then Frank Mendoza, a recent arrival from Argentina, moves in next door, and the two fall quickly into a passionate romance.
When Glory’s father whisks her away for a whirlwind European concert tour, her mental state rapidly deteriorates. She begins integrating the “Chopsticks” waltz into her concerts but soon can play nothing else. After Glory is committed to the Golden Hands Rest Facility for Piano Prodigies (not for the first time, we learn), she disappears—presumably to reunite with Frank. Readers must decided for themselves whether Frank actually exists or is merely a product of Glory’s unsettled mind; plenty of clues support both conclusions.
The physical novel’s scrapbook pages, photos, drawings and paintings, song playlists, online chat transcripts, and other ephemera (such as a foreshadowing excerpt from The Bell Jar) create a collage, telling Glory’s story while also leaving space for the reader’s own interpretation. In the enhanced ebook produced by Penguin and Citrus Suite (February 2012), additional music, sound effects, and video clips allow users to experience parts of the story along with Glory: listening to the mix CDs she swaps with Frank, viewing the videos they watch together, zooming in to see photos and keepsakes in her scrapbook up close. Internet chats with Frank are punctuated with long pauses and rapid-fire questions. “Chopsticks” becomes for users, as it is for Glory, an inescapable motif, with visual and auditory references woven throughout.
The digital version of Chopsticks is not without a few hitches. The videos and music clips are hosted on YouTube, rather than embedded within the app itself, and require an internet connection to access. One video was no longer available. Overall, though, this poignant story is deepened and extended by the multimedia format.
Available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch (requires iOS 4.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for young adult users.