Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
October 18, 2011; 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....(courtesy of Goodreads)
Virtuosity is your typical forbidden romance tale with a classic music twist. It's amazing how one of the oldest literary themes, when done well, manages to feel fresh.
Carmen: 17 year old year old musical prodigy whose life consists of the violin and is entirely steered by her mother. She is extremely sheltered - homeschooled and friends only with her tutor Heidi. Dependent on anti-anxiety pills to relieve stage fright and every other anxiety. One of those people whose life appears perfect but is falling apart on the inside.
Jeremy: Another teen musical prodigy. British, handsome, arrogant, ambitious, independent.
Jeremy + Carmen: At first I thought Carmen would wilt under Jeremy's sharp tongue. She seems backbone-less. But she surprisingly held her own. I enjoyed watching them throw sharp, witty comments at each other. There is an element of insta-love, or more accurately insta-chemistry, here that could be off-putting, but it wasn't. Jeremy and Carmen lead lives immensely different from most teens. Jeremy is one of the only people who can understand Carmen and vice versa. In that situation, the quick connection makes sense.
Our minor stars: Carmen's mother is the most important influence in Carmen's life. She starts out mildly dislikable - no different than any parent who pushes their child to excel in some activity, but her character grows increasingly worse as the novel goes on. Still, while she is a villain of sorts, I understood why she acted as she did. Carmen is lucky to have a great stepfather and tutor. Both Clark and Heidi do their best to imbue a tiny bit of normalcy into Carmen's high-flying life. It helps relieve the pressure from her mother.
The romance between Carmen and Jeremy is gentle and sweet. Not to say that it isn't complicated. Carmen doesn't know Jeremy's motives for being interested in her. Does he really like her or is he just trying to psyche her out before the big competition? Neither Carmen nor the reader knows the answer to this. I liked how Jeremy evolved as a character yet also stayed the same. He is a kind, funny guy, but remains arrogant and ambitious.
Like most contemporary novels, Virtuosity is primarily character driven. I enjoyed the romance plot, the music element, and the stunning conclusion to the Guarneri competition. However, what I loved best was meeting Carmen and Jeremy and the minor characters - learning about their hope, dreams, fears, and motivation. The book reads easily. It's never a page turner, but steadily glides along. The prose is simple. I wouldn't say it's a bare style, but the sentences and paragraphs are fairly short, which means the words flow quickly.
I highly recommend Virtuosity for a well-written contemporary novels with well-drawn characters and a great infusion of music.