Author: Jessica Martinez
Published October 18th 2011 by Simon Pulse
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…
I won Virtuosity in a giveaway aaaaages ago and am now smacking myself for not plucking it off of my shelf sooner. But I needed a swoony contemp after all of the death and sadness in my recent reads, so I grabbed it and gave it a go. Thank goodness I did. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Virtuosity‘s Carmen may be living in the ordinary world, but the pressures on her are far from those of an ordinary teenager. Carmen is world-class violinist. At a mere seventeen years old, she tours the world and has won a Grammy for her superior skill. She’s secured a spot at Juilliard when she’s ready to begin her schooling. Now all that remains is to win the Guarneri competition.
And really, everyone knows that it’s down to her and one other person: Jeremy.
The romantic relationship between Jeremy and Carmen in Virtuosity is layered with a sense of distrust. On the one hand, Jeremy really seems to get Carmen. They have the same love of music and he gets some of the pressure too. But there’s still a niggling doubt in Carmen that Jessica Martinez manages to transfer to her reader easily: what if he’s just manipulating her?
The doubt is placed there in part by Carmen’s mother. And oh my goodness. That mother. She is just… so… ack. I’ve already used the word ‘layered,’ but I really appreciated how Jessica Martinez didn’t make Carmen’s mom just a caricature of a stage mom. She’s got her own lost dreams that she is now trying to live out through Carmen. The woman is selfish and a bit horrible. On the one hand: I hated her. On the other… I loved that I could see her character depth.
I’m going to make a weird analogy here for those of you who are fans of the movie Tangled.
Carmen’s mom reminded me of Mother Gothel. I believe that Mother Gothel loved Rapunzel and that Carmen’s mother loved Carmen. But not in the way that mothers are supposed to love their daughters. They loved their children as things. Rapunzel kept Mother Gothel young and Carmen kept her mother close to the world of her lost dream. And in an attempt to keep them as tools for their use, they are uber-controlling, saying that they know best when it’s obvious that they’re wrong.
And I admired Carmen so much for taking control of her own life and realizing that she knew what was right and what was wrong… even if she clearly didn’t learn to differentiate the two from her mother. I admired her for reconnecting with her music as opposed to being some sort of weird robotic, unfeeling musician who is technically perfect, but without passion.
Carmen finds herself, she finds love, and she finds her way. What more could I ask for?
Overall rating: 4.5/5. A brilliantly done contemporary story with a swoon-worthy romance and underlying layers. My only regret is that I waited so long to read it.