Book Review | Virtuosity
Author: Jessica Martinez
Sheltered 17-year-old Carmen has been training her whole life to win the Guarneri prize: a worldwide tour, $50,000, and a 4-year loan of a very expensive violin. The only thing standing between Carmen and the Guarneri is her competition, a British violinist named Jeremy King. After she hears him play, Carmen is scared that everything she has ever wanted will slip right through her fingers.
The last thing that Carmen or Jeremy expected was to fall for each other. Carmen has never been the type to lie, sneak around, or disobey her mother, but she does all of these things just to be with Jeremy. At exactly the wrong time in her life, Carmen is learning that the things that she thought she always wanted might not be enough.
Jessica Martinez’s YA debut, Virtuosity, is a breathtaking novel about what defines us. Carmen has never wanted to be anything but a violinist, and is pushed into the industry by her controlling mother, Diana. Diana was once a talented opera singer whose career ended after a botched surgery. Carmen was the result of a short-lived affair between Diana and a patron of the arts. Diana never married Carmen’s father, but his family’s money has given Carmen her musical opportunities. Carmen always refers to her mother by her first name, and that is very telling of her relationship with her mother. Diana is a terrific foil to Carmen, and I absolutely hated her. In contrast, I loved Carmen’s stepfather, Clark, and wanted more interaction between him and Carmen. His role in Virtuosity was powerful, but very minimal.
I loved the relationship between Jeremy and Carmen. Their relationship blossomed from common interests and understanding of each other’s lives; because of their careers, neither one really seems to have had a joyful childhood. They are exactly what each other needs, but it’s complicated because the Guarneri can only be offered to one of them.
Carmen really grows throughout Virtuosity; she is faced with some really tough choices, and what she ultimately chooses at the end is not what I felt she would have chosen at the beginning. She’s not always easy to like, but most readers will find her easy to relate to, whether it’s because of her dependency on Inderal (an anti-anxiety pill she takes before performing), her relationship with her mother, the pressure to always succeed or win, or the situation with her paternal grandparents.
I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to Carmen and Jeremy when I read the last page of Virtuosity; the ending is a bit ambiguous but it wouldn’t have been such a great book if it had ended any other way. Virtuosity is a love letter to music, as well as a coming of age story, and it shines. This is easily one of the best contemporary YA books that I have read this year.
*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*