Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When my good friend Maja mentioned in her review of Virtuosity that she recommended it for fans of Where She Went, I knew I couldn't possibly skip this book.
And she was right, if you like Gayle Forman, you will most probably like Jessica Martinez and this stunning debut as well.
In Virtuosity, Carmen is an accomplished violinist at only 17. Not only is she a child prodigy about to start Juilliard in the fall, but she might probably be the best out there with a Grammy award to her merit.
She is now getting ready for the most prestigious competition of all, the Guarneri, which will give the final boost to her career and consecrate her as a member of the virtuosos elite in music.
There is only one obstacle standing in her way to the fulfillment of her life dream: Jeremy King. British, just as talented, just as determined to win. Possibly more. Because Carmen has long lost the confidence she needs in her abilities or her joy for playing. Her stage fright has transformed into anxiety attacks and the only thing that keeps her from freaking out is Inderal, a medication.
But when Carmen finally meets Jeremy, she discovers that the one person she should hate is worming himself a way into her heart.
With the finals inching closer and her neurotic and overachieving mother breathing down her neck, Carmen will finally come to understand the cost of fame and decide whether she is willing to pay it or not.
In this book, for me, it all comes down to Carmen and how well Martinez managed to portray her, her life, her anxiety, her insecurities. Carmen has lived in a golden cage all her life because that's what being a child prodigy does to you. Despite living under the wing of her career oriented, manipulative mother/manager, yet Carmen manages to make all the right choices and be true to herself. I like this kind of strong heroine. No weird feminist crap (hello Pink!) but just honesty, coherency and taking responsibility for one's actions. She doesn't lie, she doesn't manipulate and despite being in a difficult situation which would have put to the test even the most virtuous of us, she manages to come out of it clean without being a wonder woman. If I had to make a comparison again to Where She Went, I'd say she is better than Mia, in my opinion.
As for the other characters, Carmen's mother is a real piece of work. Again, I was very pleased at how Martinez managed to make my dislike for her escalate gradually towards full blown hatred. I don't think I've felt so negatively strongly towards a fictional character in a long time.
One detail that made me very happy in this book was also how the author managed to keep up the romantic side of the story with close to zero sexual tension between the characters - yeah, that thing that usually keeps us romantic readers glued to the book. I was glued nonetheless.
So if you want a beautifully written book about music, love, a bit of mystery and choices that define you as a person, you should definitely pick up Virtuosity, enjoy it and then hope that Martinez will soon present us with something just as good.
Highly recommended for lovers of good YA realistic fiction.
An advanced copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher.
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