Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez – Book Review

Book/Author: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse 2011
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
I received this book from the publisher at BEA.

When you are considered to be a violin prodigy and competing in the SUPERBOWL of all violin competitions, there’s little room for error if you want to win the most prestigious title that could essentially launch the rest of your career. No pressure, right? This is where Carmen, an extremely gifted violinist, finds herself. The mounting pressure to succeed has escalated and can only be remedied by one thing — anti-anxiety pills. And to top it off? Her concentration is further tested when a guy she shouldn’t give the time of day comes in the picture and has the ability to stand in her way of what she’s worked so hard for.

Books like this are why contemporary will always be the apple of my eye. I honestly picked this up at BEA because of the cover (it’s so wickedly awesome) and because I really enjoyed the violin aspect of If I Stay & Where She Went despite not knowing ANYTHING about violin…and it just sounded so unique! This book was utterly un-putdownable as I felt my heart thumping inside my chest the way Carmen did as she was facing the biggest ‘make or break” event in her life and simultaneously trying to figure out the mysteries and intentions of the new eye candy in her life. Tension galore, I tell you!

A decent amount of YA books suffer from “missing parent syndrome” but NOT THIS BOOK. Let’s just say, as I mentioned in a recent list of books that made me emotional, that Carmen’s mom is one of those most insufferable biznatches I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading about. She goes in parent jail along with all the moms who put their 7 year olds on crazy diets and the crazy pageant moms who skankify their five year old and teach them to dance like their working a pole. Now my mom used to put the pressure on me about school work and getting straight A’s but my mom’s pressure seems like a little kitten to this beastwoman. I won’t say anything more about her because huge parts of the plot are propelled by her mom’s desire to feel success again, vicariously through her daughter, but her actions are seriously HORRID.

I think that aspect of the book was done really well. While most of us can’t relate to the magnitude of pressure that Carmen faces, I think most teens and young adults can relate, at the core, to how these pressure make us feel and act. Things like getting into college, SATs, getting good grades, staying out of trouble, finding the perfect boyfriend, etc. etc. We can feel out of control of our life, doubt if we are living or just going through the motions and feel a more than healthy dose of anxiety. I could feel all these emotions that Carmen was going through and it ripped my hearts into shreds. And it was even sadder to me that her whole life revolved so much around her career that she hadn’t ever gotten to experience the normal teen rites of passage.

Carmen was truly an admirable character though and not in a contrived way. I truly got a sense of who she was as the novel progressed and felt satisfied with her actions and the decisions she made for herself. She was entirely relatable and definitely memorable.

The writing was superb! This wasn’t just a good contemporary story…it was a fantastically written contemporary story. The prose is so lyrical and lovely; filled with lively imagery that lingers and scenes so powerful that they tug at your emotional heartstrings without being too obvious or contrived. Some truly beautiful passages are to be encountered.

The one thing I was a little disappointed with is the whole anti-anxiety med addiction. I just felt like it was going to be more important in the novel but I felt like it was there and we were told how bad it was but I never truly felt her addiction and the impact. And *minor spoiler* it seemed like she all of a sudden made the decision to be done with them and that was it. I don’t know if maybe the addiction was in her head or what but I just felt a little disappointed with how this thread was resolved. I just had thought, from the description, that it would play more of a prominent role in the story.

My Final Thought: Virtuosity is a contemporary read you want to add to your list if you like beautiful writing with a unique storyline and lively characters. The romance takes a unique spin on the “forbidden romance” for those who desire that storyline but prefer for the story to not be paranormal or cliched. It’s a very heartfelt story and I guarantee you that your heart will break with Carmen but also feel that hopeful feeling you get when you start finding yourself again.

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