Product details:Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK.Paperback, 292 pages
Release date: October 27th 2011Rating: 4.5 out of 5Age: 14+Source: Received from publisher for review.Reviewed by: Emily
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....
Virtuosity has lots of elements that I typically enjoy reading about in contemporary YA: complex family relationships; a nuanced love interest; snap-crackle-pop dialogue; a smart, talented main character. So it was no surprise that I enjoyed this book, but I didn't realise just how much I would love it.
When Carmen’s story begins, she’s two weeks away from a career-defining competition. Her dependency on anti-anxiety medication is increasing and her passion for violin is all but lost. Martinez does an excellent job of portraying Carmen’s downward spiral and I felt the intensity of her situation right from the beginning, even though I didn’t know much about Carmen at that point. When Jeremy entered the scene, I worried it would become just another cheesy love story but that’s definitely not the case. It is a love story – and a great one at that – but it’s also so much more. It’s the story of how Carmen takes control of her life and figures out what kind of person she wants to be.
Martinez's beautiful writing style made it easy for me to get swept up in Carmen’s story. From the vivid descriptions of Chicago to the witty banter between the characters, I loved every minute of it. I found that my attitude toward the characters mimicked Carmen's as the story progressed - my growing dislike of Diana and never knowing if Jeremy was trustworthy. I became so invested in the outcome of the story that I finished the last 150 pages in one sitting. I was sad as I turned the final page because I wanted to keep spending time with these characters. I would LOVE a sequel, but at the same time I liked the open ending and thought it worked really well in this book.
The pacing is amazing. I did feel the romance was a little rushed in the beginning, but I can't say I was ever bored. Martinez keeps things interesting by constantly changing the tone: flirty when Carmen is with Jeremy, tense when the topic of their competition comes up, panic-ridden when Carmen feels she needs her medication, warm and fuzzy when she's hanging out with her tutor/friend Heidi. There were also some poignant scenes with Carmen and her violin instructor, Yuri, which made me shed a tear or two.
This is the second YA novel about music that I've read and loved this year (the first being The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr), and I'm interested in reading more. If you have any recommendations, please let me know! Hopefully I'll find more that I love just as much as Virtuosity.
All in all, I highly recommend Virtuosity. A must-read for contemporary fans.