Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Published: October 18th, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
292 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: may include spoilers

Synopsis: 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....

First of all, hooray for Canadian authors! Okay, I had to do it…and now that that’s out of the way…

I’m not really sure where to begin with this review. I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it either. At times, I had a lot of trouble relating to Carmen. I think unless you’ve lived the life of a child prodigy or celebrity, it’s hard to truly relate. However, the story was very well written and gave the reader an interesting inside look at what Carmen’s life was like, and how all-consuming her music was.

Despite the fact that I couldn’t relate to Carmen in many ways, she was a very well-developed character, and by the end I felt like I knew her intimately. The author’s writing style was interesting because there seemed to be more internal dialogue than external. Carmen struggled a lot - she worried about her mother, about performing and competitions, about the drugs she was taking - and her mind was always going. 

I liked that Carmen wasn’t your typical teenager. She didn’t go to school, and she didn’t have many friends - her life was completely about the violin. As much as she loved the violin, she wanted something more, and struggled for independence. That part was relatable and realistic because most teenagers, no matter what their lives are like, struggle for independence.

As for the romance between Carmen and Jeremy…it didn’t do much for me. I liked Jeremy well enough, and I think that despite the issues they had, he was good for Carmen. It was his presence in her life that finally made Carmen realize she wanted something more in her life, which in turn set a whole chain of events into motion. Their relationship was awkward and stilted at first as they tried to find things in common other than the violin, but it was interesting watching the romance progress.

One of the things I appreciated about this book was that there was very little filler. So many books these days seem to be at least 1/4 filler, if not more. Virtuosity jumped right into the story and there wasn’t much that didn’t relate to the actual story, which made it a quick read. As a slow reader, I like books that are straightforward so I don’t have time to forget things that have happened.

I still can’t decide if I loved the ending or hated it. ***Possible spoiler alert*** On the one hand, I thought it was kind of romantic, and I was happy that Carmen was finally exerting her independence, but on the other hand, I wanted more. It’s great that she finally had a choice, but we follow her life so closely, get invested in her story, and then bam - it’s over. I’m not against open-ended conclusions, but it just felt a bit too abrupt.

All that being said, Virtuosity was a beautifully written, unique story with well-developed characters and an interesting plot line. I enjoyed the author’s distinctive writing style, and the fact that the story was fresh and fast-paced. 



  1. I keep seeing this one around lately. It sounds very original I should give it a try. Like the sounds of no annoying pointless filler! :)

    Xpresso Reads

  2. I've been going back-and-forth on whether I want to read this or not. I do like some of the things you said, but there is just something about this one that makes me leery.

  3. I love contemporary young adult, and these days it seems like it's hard to find it...everything is fantasy or paranormal it seems (which I love too, don't get me wrong!). I was leery too Christy...I originally got this one from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab, but let it expire...then when it came in at the library, I wasn't sure if I was even going to read it, but needed a 3rd book for a contemporary YA challenge for November, so decided to read it. Even though I didn't love it, I think it was worth was a quick read, so it's not like one of those books that you end up thinking 'why did I waste all those hours??', you know?


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