Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez


Title: Virtuosity

Author: Jessica Martinez

Publisher: Simon Pulse

ISBN: 978-1442420526


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen’s whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn’t just hot…what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can’t end well, but she just can’t stay away. Nobody else understands her—and riles her up—like he does. Still, she can’t trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes antianxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what’s expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall….


Virtuosity is a book I would have skipped if I hadn’t received a review copy.  The cover does nothing for me, and it left me with an incorrect impression of what the book was about.  I am so glad that I did receive a copy and was coerced into reading it, because this is one of the best reads of the year. 

Carmen is a violinist.  She lives and breathes violin.  She has played in the most prestigious venues in classical music long before she was old enough to drive, and her entire life revolves around music.  Even though she is having serious anxiety issues.  Even though she is kept in a sheltered bubble of lessons, performances, and competitions.  The violin is all she has ever known, and the thought of it no longer being a part of her is incomprehensible. 

Enter Jeremy, her gifted rival in the Guarneri competition.  Enter a dangerous, self-destructive attraction for the person who makes her see that there just could be other things in life more important than her violin.  As Carmen grapples with a riot of new emotions and rebels against her strictly ordered life, she is forced to make painful decisions about her music, her relationship with her mother, and herself. 

I really loved this book.  Carmen is so miserable at the beginning of Virtuosity, but she doesn’t even realize it.  Every single thing she does is for her music, and her structured days are planned by her mother, Diana, all to further Carmen’s musical career. Carmen’s relationship with her mother is an interesting one, based almost strictly on music.  Diana is the volatile force behind Carmen’s career, and she is a harsh taskmaster.  She expects instant obedience.  Music is all about dedication and sacrifice, and personal wants are to be set aside for the pursuit of the perfect performance. 

At the start of the book, Carmen and Diana seem to have an ideal relationship.  They are working towards the same goal, they are both behind success, and together, it seems that they can accomplish anything.  Then the tiny cracks in their relationship begin to show, and as Carmen is drawn to Jeremy again and again, despite her mother’s warnings, these cracks become fissures.  As long as Carmen is the obedient puppet, she and her mother are in harmony.  Once Carmen begins to question what she wants in life, there is a discordant screech where the harmony used to be.

While I didn’t care for Carmen at first, I quickly found her a relatable character.  She doesn’t have many of the social graces that the rest of us take for granted, and she doesn’t know how to communicate with her peers.  Her entire life has been lived in musical circles, with only her tutor, an older girl, for a companion.  Jessica can discuss music with anyone, but when it comes to normal teenage things, she is hopelessly out of  her depth.  They are beyond her, as she strives to become the greatest violinist in the world. I couldn’t help but want her and Jeremy to somehow work out their awkward relationship, so the socially inept Carmen could at least feel like she’s a normal girl.

If you enjoy tense, emotional contemporary novels, this is the book for you.  I could not put it down, and it’s a promising start to Jessica Martinez’s writing career.  I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher