Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love- and Jeremy King is definitely not the boy for her fall in love with. He’s beautiful, British and just about the only person in the only world who could beat her to the prize she’s dedicated her whole life to: the prestigious Guarneri award for violin. The only problem is, Carmen’s not even sure if she deserves the prize any more. Desperate to please her controlling mother, she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall…
Title: Virtuosityby Jessica Martinez
Published: October 18th 2011 by Simon Pulse
Group age: Young adult
Grade rate: A
Carmen’s life is full of unanswered questions.
How do you trust a mother who’s living vicariously through you because her own career was ruined before it even began?How should you feel about having a father who’s never been interested in you and grandparents who only care because you’re famous?How can you choose to break free when this is the only life you’ve ever known?
For much of this book, Carmen avoids the questions in her life by taking anti-anxiety pills, but when they start to affect her experience of music and the passion she once felt for playing violin, you know it’s only a matter of time before things have to change. Her fear of failure has sent her on such a long, dark and downward spiral even music may not be able to save her.Carmen’s personal issues are handled with incredible grace throughout Virtuosity. Written in a style that epitomizes the contemporary genre we know and love, my only wish was for more moments of the plot-focused kind in the earlier part of the book to match the fast-moving and enrapturing second half.
Of the supporting cast, not all seemed entirely purposeful to the narrative (I’m looking at you, Heidi), but Carmen’s mother Diana was a real piece of work. I tried to keep an open mind when it came to her character but she was just nasty! She doesn’t make a good first impression and things only get worse from there. There’s something very, very wrong about the way Diana constantly assesses her daughter to see if she’s up to scratch and meeting her warped standards. She’s almost chilling.
I didn’t always like Jeremy as a character but as a love interest he was absolutely perfect. (Also, he was British. Adorably British.) Young adult romances are often very one-sided but in Virtuosity both leads find themselves evaluating their lives and struggling to define the world around them. I always want more grounding in YA relationships and I felt that the author made a concerted effort to give Jeremy and Carmen a sense of realism without ruining any of their magic. They’re not one of my favourite romantic pairings of recent times, but they’re very memorable.
Virtuosity is not an absolute stand-out of a book – it lacks that special something that makes a contemporary novel unique amid the throng – but as a story it just glitters with promise. It needs more description and the emphasis on meandering emotion drags at times, but I get the feeling that if it found its way into the hands of the right reader, it could be a very special read indeed.