Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez


Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: October 18th, 2011
IBSN: 9781442420526

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 anti-anxiety 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...

Carmen's entire life has revolved around her violin career. It hasn't been so bad, until recently. Performance without anti-anxiety medication seems impossible and her mother's trying to continue her own prematurely-ended career through Carmen. Her budding romance with fellow prodigy Jeremy seems to be the only good thing about her violin now, but her mother won't even allow for one distraction.

Virtuosity was an impressive debut, skilfully written. Music books usually aren't my thing, but this story wasn't exclusively about violin. It was about family and romance and seemingly insurmountable pressure. Martinez captured a teenage voice with deftness and created trials for her that led to stunning character development.

The prose was spare, but it very much captured Carmen's voice. I became invested in her story early on, and I was feeling alongside her anxious, excited, worried, whatever emotion. She was likable, with her earnest and kind personality. I also admired the way she began to stand up for herself eventually.

The romance definitely hit the spot as well. Carmen's story wasn't dominated by her burgeoning relationship with Jeremy, but it was important to her development, rather than just an obligatory subplot. Jeremy and Carmel changed and grew so much because of each other, and though their romance felt slightly rushed, there was much chemistry.

Though sometimes Carmen feeling so sorry for herself verged on annoying, it was easy to see where she was coming from. I can't say that I appreciate melodrama, but I can understand it. Carmen's lived a fairly smooth life, with a talent and a family who loves her (and some that doesn't, but that's not too big a deal) and a comfortable home. I could understand how the events of Virtuosity had her overwhelmed.

The ending was sappy and a little too dragged out, but overall, Virtuosity was a promising debut. The prose lended to three-dimensional characters, and the themes were universal.

I give Virtuosity a 4 out of 5.