Dazzled by Virtuosity

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez; published by Simon Pulse, New York, 2011; 290 pages.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.

The prestigious Guarneri competition looms for Carmen Bianchi.  Her life is consumed by one thing: violin.  That drive has made her a nervous wreck and an anti-anxiety medication addict.  In an effort to scope out the competition and ease her anxiety, Carmen checks on Jeremy King (her only real competition) by waiting outside the concert hall then sneaking in to watch his performance.  Jeremy catches her and invites her backstage.  Their shared passion for violin and drive to win the Guarneri competition make them instant yet inconceivable friends.  Jeremy also reminds Carmen of what it’s like to feel the music, not just play it.  When friendship leaps into so much more, what will survive–drive to win, love of violin, or their relationship?  And can Carmen overcome her fears and addictions to recover the way music makes her feel?

Martinez transplants readers into Carmen’s world of classical music and competition seamlessly.  I’m not much of a musician but I easily related to Carmen and her world.  Virtuosity reads like music sounds: A flow of highs and lows, elation and sorrow.  The dual story lines kept me turning pages in a non-stop marathon read.  The romance is authentic, taking Carmen and Jeremy from distrust and chemistry to its culmination (won’t give that away).  But the inner turmoil Carmen struggles with, the anxiety and addiction, rang most true to me.  In her world as a music prodigy, the coming of age issues of all teens is magnified and scrutinized.  Her ultimate decision to be her own woman (throwing away the pills and exerting her independence from a domineering mother) is a step into adulthood that we all have to take.

Anyone who enjoyed Mia and Adam’s story in Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went will enjoy Carmen and Jeremy’s contemporary tale of music prodigies.  I like the introduction of classical music Martinez and Forman have delivered.  Try creating a playlist of the music in Virtuosity and get a complete picture of Carmen’s world.

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 9-12

Cover Art: The black, white and hot pink color scheme is a definite attention-getter.  The silhouette image of a girl also works to get teens to pick it up.  I like the stark white upper page and the sans serif text of the title.  Any guesses why the “o” in the title is hot pink?  I have my theory….

From Reading List: Keepin’ It Real

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