Virtuosity- Jessica Martinez.

Synopsis from Goodreads.
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….

“And once the nervousness had completely disappeared and the flatness descended, it seemed like whole world took on a matte finish. No gloss to slip on.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
That last page saved what would have been a ‘WHAT THE EFF’-type of ending… but we’ll get to that. Don’t worry.

High Points.
The cover… it really doesn’t have anything to do with the story but, man, do I wish my hair would do that. Music. Pizza. Ball gowns. Walks in the park. Jazz clubs. Curfews. Makeovers. Almost-there. Beautiful prose. Original idea. Balconies. Shirley Temple.

Low Points.
That ending…. bar the last page. Love interest.

A quick note: These next two categories are going to seem like I didn’t like this book, but I really did. I think the problem I had was that I couldn’t really relate to any of the characters. This is quite possibly because the closest I get to being musical is when I sometimes accidentally whistle when I say words with an ‘s’ in…
BUT: I was utterly blown away by the beautiful writing and the story and thought it was so refreshingly different to anything I’ve read this year.

Heroine.
I think a lot of the problems I had with Carmen are the ones most people (herself included!) would have. She needed a backbone and the ability to stand up for herself… whether it was against her mum or Jeremy or her critics.
I really wanted Carmen to hang out with Helen, her tutor, more. I loved their scenes because it allowed Carmen to be a normal teenager and not merely one who has an effin’ Grammy.

But just because I didn’t like Carmen, doesn’t mean I think she was a brilliantly developed character. I loved how Ms Martinez steered well clear of making Carmen a prissy Mary-Sue kind of character, which considering the subject matter, could have so easily happened. I love that her insecurities and her flaws were always present and they weren’t covered over. Sometimes I think that YA authors decide to write a book about an intense subject matter and then when they sit down to write it, they kind of chicken out. But not this one.
What I absolutely loved about Carmen, however, was that she was special and she acknowledged that she was special. She had a talent and she wasn’t all… ‘Oh, yeah… I’m ok, I guess’… which is why the ending (seriously, that last page saved it) really bothered me.

Also… I kept wondering why her second name was Bianchi because that’s not a Spanish name.
And then I realised that she wasn’t actually Carmen Diaz of the Fame… uh, fame.
But that didn’t stop me from listening to the soundtrack… on repeat… all day.

Love Interest.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is what I scientists call a Swooper.
They are usually tall, brooding gentlemen with haphazard hair and dimples. And more often than not British, so they’re obviously exotic. *cough*
They like to swoop in at the last minute, when our heroine (or hero… let’s not discriminate) is in the depths of anguish, and solve all their problems armed only with a lopsided smile and implausible solutions.
I wasn’t buying why Carmen would sacrifice her lifestyle for him at the beginning because, and maybe this is just me, I always got the impression that Carmen loved playing the violin, even when it wasn’t easy.
I mean, Jeremy was alright. He wasn’t bad… and there were some cute moments but … I don’t know.
There was one major problem I had with him, but I can’t tell you because it’s a huge spoiler.
But just because I understand why he did it… doesn’t make it right. Play by the rules, man.

Also, re: Your fear of Man United fans.
You grew up in London… surely you must be used to them now…..?
Ohohohohhh, yeah I went there.

Theme Tune.

I look around at a beautiful life
Been the upper side of down
Been the inside of out
But we breathe
We breathe.

I always forget how amazing the Stereophonics are until I have a listening session. I think this song perfectly matches the glorious open ending that those last few pages left us with…

Boy Angst.
Hmm, this is a funny one. Because there wasn’t actually much boy angst as in Cameron throwing herself around her bedroom screaming ‘WHY ARE BOYS SO ATROCIOUS?!’… but the boy did cause a lot of sadness.
I didn’t like the love in this book… it seemed too quick and too convenient for my liking. But then it had some cute moments and I thought that I was being too harsh… but then something else happened and I was like… no, definitely not.
So I’m passing on a number.
It’s my review so I can do what I want.

Sadness Scale.
8/10.
There is something about books/films/television series featuring talented teenagers that always fills with me with sadness. It always seems such a high risk situation: You have no choice but to throw yourself into the lifestyle and when it pays off, boy, does it pay off. But when it doesn’t and it all comes crashing down around you….
This book covers the latter situation, so yeah… my heart ached on multiple occasions.

Recommended For.
People who are looking for a beautifully written, original contemporary fiction. People who have ever had stage fright. People who can play an instrument. People who think Chicago makes the best pizza. People who think other cities do just fine…. People who think that wearing a ball gown can make any situation more dramatic. People who ever wanted to be musical. People who wish they could make P.A.



I received a copy of this book from the publishers.

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3 thoughts on “Virtuosity- Jessica Martinez.

  1. Hm. Thanks for the honest review. I feel better going into my copy now that I've read your take. Veeery interested to see what I think. Although, for the record, it's never a good sign to see Love Interest listed under Low Points….

  2. I also read and loved Virtuosity! I'm glad to know there are others out there who enjoyed it as well!

    As for why Carmen was willing to “throw her lifestyle” away for Jeremy — I don't think she was throwing it away, per se, but I got the feeling that, despite the fact she seems to genuinely love violin, I think the biggest reason she plays violin is because her mom wants her to, because her mom is trying to live her classical dreams through Carmen. So I think Carmen is more willing to part with the violin for that reason.

    Just my thoughts ^-^

  3. Thanks Angie! Yeah, I don't know. I just thought this book would have been better without the love interest because I think this story is about Carmen. Looking forward to your thoughts when you get round to it!

    Thanks, Jinny! I understand what you're saying. I don't know, I always got the impression that Carmen really loved playing the violin. (When I say 'throwing away her lifestyle' I meant at the beginning with the park and pizza :)
    Maybe I didn't make it clear.
    But either way, I did like this book, it was so different to anything I've read before!

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