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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....

294 pages, Hardcover

First published October 18, 2011

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Jessica Martinez

25 books241 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 554 reviews
Profile Image for Cory.
Author 1 book398 followers
May 2, 2011
I was actually prompted to write this review after a friend pointed me to this interview: http://www.jessicamartinez.com/index....

In case you're reading this Jessica, I'm not a guy. I'm a seventeen-year-old girl. Just thought I'd get that out of the way.

Now, onto the review.

It's difficult for me to express what I disliked about this book. It wasn't the writing style, nor was it the romance.

No, I think it comes down to the protagonist. I like a protagonist that I'm able to sympathize with. As I was reading this book, I was reminded of Akeelah and the Bee. Carmen and Akeelah are somewhat similar. Both of their fathers are absent, both of them have difficult relationships with their mothers, and they both aspire to reach goals far beyond that of the average person. But the similarities stop there.

One of the many things you learn in Writing 101 is that you must have a sympathetic protagonist. They don't necessarily have to be likable -- after all, who really liked Anakin in Revenge of the Sith -- but they must have some quality that makes the reader understand their motivation; their struggle so to speak.

When I watched Akeelah and the Bee, I was immediately able to sympathize with Akeelah. Her father had recently been murdered, her mother was never at home, and she was forced to hide her intelligence because she was afraid of being shunned at school. Don't get me wrong, too much angst leads to the creation of a Mary Sue. But there's a reason why we root for the underdog. We want them to win because we know that if they can beat the odds, so can we. We project a certain part of ourselves onto these characters. It's what makes the journey worth it. This is why Slumdog Millionaire was such a popular movie. And to a certain extent, it's why Twilight was so popular.

If Anakin had been a privileged Jedi Master with countless female servants, would we really sympathize with him? No. He'd have no reason to struggle and we wouldn't understand his journey.

And for this reason, I couldn't sympathize with Carmen.

Seventeen-year-old Carmen is a world class violinist who's already won a Grammy. She also has a full scholarship to Juilllard and she owns a million dollar violin. While her father wants nothing to do with her, she has two loving parents who want nothing but for her to succeed. Granted, her mother is a bit anal, but when it comes to parents, aren't they all at times?

Carmen is dead set to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. But her biggest competition is Jeremy, a British child prodigy. Since this is an ARC, I won't spoil the book. But I will say that Carmen got on my nerves. I understand that she's under a lot of stress. She takes anti-anxiety pills. But I'm sick of rich, privileged protagonists whining about how hard their lives are. It annoys me to no end.

You have money. You have a free ride through one of the best schools in the country. And you're talented. Why isn't that enough? Why does she have to be the best and it still isn't good enough?

In addition to my dissatisfaction with Carmen, I was disappointed by the elitist attitude present throughout this entire book. I understand that some people are born talented, but that doesn't make them better than anyone else. Just because you're talented, that doesn't mean you'll be better than someone who practices 24/7. That sort of self-righteous attitude bothers me. It doesn't matter if you're the smartest person in the world. If you don't apply that intelligence, it means nothing. If you're up against the dumbest person in the world in a game of Jeopardy and they've memorized Wikipedia, they'll beat you. No questions asked.

Several times it's pointed out that Carmen and Jeremy are the only real competitors in the Guarneri. The other eighteen competitors don't matter. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't there quite a few Asians that are into classical music too? I'm not trying to stereotype, but are you telling me that they just aren't good enough to compete with an American and a Brit? What about the Yund Li's and the Lang Lang's of the world? Apparently, Carmen and Jeremy are the best violinists the Guarneri competition has ever seen.

This is hard to swallow. It's the same pill I was forced to take while I was reading Death Note. Heads up authors, you should not make your characters the best in any particular subject without giving me a reason why I should root for them. It's like when authors make their characters Harvard or Princeton bound without proving that they're smart. And to clear this up, I used to play violin, and now I play both trumpet and guitar. I know how hard it is to play an instrument.

I don't mind reading about privileged characters. I liked Catcher in the Rye. But Holden wasn't particularly talented. He was a loser. When you give me a privileged, talented character and expect me to root for them, I'm not going to without a reason.

Also, I hated the ending. There was no pay off. And I did not like the big reveal behind Jeremy's motives. Sure, I liked him, but I didn't appreciate being forced to sympathize with him for contrived reasons.

In addition, I lived in Chicago for five years. I visit Chicago nearly every year to see my grandparents. The details for the setting felt very tourist like. I know the best pizza place in Chicago. Even Barack Obama knows the best pizza place in Chicago. Yes, I'm nitpicking, but setting is very important to me and this didn't feel genuine.

And for the record, I was home-schooled from grades 7 - 12. Not all home-schooled kids are socially awkward. Can we please eliminate this myth?

I wouldn't not recommend this book, but I wouldn't tell you to run out and pre-order it. Watch Whisper of the Heart instead. It's what I thought this book would be and more.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,917 followers
September 9, 2011
At first glance, Virtuosity is just another story about a girl who isn’t in control of her own life. And you know what? That’s exactly what it is on second glance as well. But unlike so many of these stories, it is well written, completely engrossing and definitely worth a read.

To say that Carmen grew up shielded from everyday life would be a serious understatement. She was homeschooled, she never had a real friend other than her tutor Heidi and she never spent any time with boys her age. You see, Carmen is not a seventeen-year-old girl, she is not a daughter, she is not a student and she is not a friend. Carmen is a Grammy Award winning violinist and she has just been admitted to Julliard with a full scholarship. When people look at her, that’s all they see – and it’s only natural considering how good she is. She is so good, in fact, that there’s only one violin soloist who might prove to be better than her: Jeremy King.

Carmen and Jeremy are the most likely finalists in the Guarneri contest. They are both just one step away from that huge, life-altering victory. Falling in love under the circumstances really shouldn’t be an option... but it is.

"It's kind of funny, actually," she said. "Most girls have to worry about guys just being after sex, but you should really be more worried if he isn't after sex. You just can't do anything normally, can you?"

When you’re so valuable to everyone around you, you really are all alone. How do you trust a mother who’s living vicariously through you because her own career was ruined before it even started? How should you feel about your rich grandparents who only started noticing you when you became famous? And how do you fall in love with a boy whose success can’t come without your failure?

Virtuosity surprised me with two huge, jaw dropping moments – something that doesn’t happen very often. Just when I thought it's about to become predictable, Martinez did something I never saw coming. That alone makes it worth reading.
My big thanks to Nomes for pushing me in the right direction! :)
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews962 followers
December 17, 2011
I confess that I am one of those people that say: “I love music.” Probably a lot. And I do, in a certain sense of the word. I love music in that I find emotional connection and release in it. I love music in that I come home from work some days, pour myself a glass of wine, put on the Cure and dance around my lounge room. In that I listen to it every day without exception.

But when I stop to really think about it, I see how limited my appreciation of music really is. I watch my six-year-old niece playing Chopin over Skype, her small fingers confident, or my sister, curved around her cello, and I feel like I’m listening to a language I don’t understand. Like I’m standing in a room full of words I can’t translate, or trying to grasp something I want but can’t get a firm hold on. I gave up on music in Year 3, after my music teacher yelled at me and I cried in front of the class . I recall deciding right then and there that I was bad at it, although in hindsight, that’s probably not strictly true.

But I know now that I won’t ever understand it the way some people do. It won’t be the backbone of my life, upon which everything else hinges and grows.

This is where Jessica Martinez excels in Virtuosity, in portraying a character whose life is intrinsically bound up with music, where it saturates every element of her existence, for better or worse. For Carmen Bianchi, a talented violinist, her art is also her life. Her passion is her future – and winning the Guarneri music prize is critical. Yet when Carmen comes face to face with the competition, Jeremy King, she is forced to confront what is really important, and at what cost she is willing to win.

I was swept up in this book more than I expected to be, in all honesty. Given the subject matter, and the protagonist’s position, I didn’t think I would be able to connect with it on any level. However, Martinez has crafted a very compelling story, dealing with family, self-doubt and choice that is both fascinating and honest. It’s a deceptively simple premise that tackles a number of complex issues, not the least of which is Carmen’s complicated relationship with her Mother, who is also her manager.

For me, this was the most difficult part of the story to read. The depiction of Carmen’s mother’s lack of belief in own daughter was kind of heartbreaking. To see how much the lines between love and obsession were blurred, their relationship tainted by Diana’s own broken dreams and drive for success, was genuinely upsetting. In this respect, Martinez’s characterisation was very effective – rather than painting Diana was a one-note villain, the various nuances of the mother-daughter relationship and its unhealthy dynamic were well drawn. Carmen’s confusion and fear of trusting her own judgement felt completely understandable, given the web of parental love and clear manipulation she was caught in.

Similarly, I felt the way Carmen responded to Jeremy was believable, in terms of her inability to separate her burgeoning feelings for him from her compulsion to question his motives. While I felt that the mutual attraction was a little rushed, perhaps too quick to feel realistic, I did believe the hesitation to trust on both sides, and the difficulty in overcoming the enormous pressure on them due to their being in direct competition with each other. For most of the story, I found myself questioning Jeremy along with Carmen, unsure which side of him was real, how much of his interaction with her was genuine and how much was calculated.

But essentially, this isn’t so much a story about love, as much as it’s a story about Carmen reclaiming her right to choose, to take control of her life and decide what is important to her. It’s also about Carmen confronting her insecurities, or least acknowledging them. This was possibly the part that was the most resonant for me, watching Carmen struggle with doubt and fear and trying to untangle where the medicated calm ended and she began, where routine and commitment separated from her love for playing violin.

I do wish that the ending had shown more of the repercussions of Carmen’s choice. That it came with a price is clearly implied, however I did want to see a little more page time devoted to the real-life and probably long-lasting ramifications for the relationship between Carmen and Diana.

Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed Virtuosity. It’s a solid, impressive debut and I would definitely read Martinez’s further work.
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews509 followers
September 12, 2011
4.5/5 stars

When my good friend Maja mentioned in her review of Virtuosity that she recommended it for fans of Where She Went, I knew I couldn't possibly skip this book.
And she was right, if you like Gayle Forman, you will most probably like Jessica Martinez and this stunning debut as well.

In Virtuosity, Carmen is an accomplished violinist at only 17. Not only is she a child prodigy about to start Juilliard in the fall, but she might probably be the best out there with a Grammy award to her merit.
She is now getting ready for the most prestigious competition of all, the Guarneri, which will give the final boost to her career and consecrate her as a member of the virtuoso elite in music.
There is only one obstacle standing in her way to the fulfillment of her life dream: Jeremy King. British, just as talented, just as determined to win. Possibly more. Because Carmen has long lost the confidence in her abilities she needs or her joy for playing. Her stage fright has transformed into anxiety attacks and the only thing that keeps her from freaking out is Inderal, a medication.
But when Carmen finally meets Jeremy, she discovers that the one person she should hate is worming himself a way into her heart.
With the finals looming closer and her neurotic and overachieving mother breathing down her neck, Carmen will finally come to understand the cost of fame and decide whether she is willing to pay it or not.

In this book, for me, it all comes down to Carmen and how well Martinez managed to portray her, her life, her anxiety, her insecurities. Carmen has lived in a golden cage all her life because that's what being a child prodigy does to you. Despite living under the wing of her career oriented, manipulative mother/manager, yet Carmen manages to make all the right choices and be true to herself. I like this kind of strong heroine. No weird feminist crap (hello Pink!) but just honesty, coherency and taking responsibility for one's actions. She doesn't lie, she doesn't manipulate and despite being in a difficult situation which would have put to the test even the most virtuous of us, she manages to come out of it clean without being a wonder woman. If I had to make a comparison again to Where She Went, I'd say she is better than Mia, in my opinion.

As for the other characters, Carmen's mother is a real piece of work. Again, I was very pleased with how Martinez managed to make my dislike for her escalate gradually toward full-blown hatred. I don't think I've felt so negatively strongly toward a fictional character in a long time.

One detail that made me very happy in this book was also how the author managed to keep up the romantic side of the story with close to zero sexual tension between the characters - yeah, that thing that usually keeps us romantic readers glued to the book. I was glued nonetheless.

So if you want a beautifully written book about music, love, a bit of mystery and choices that define you as a person, you should definitely pick up Virtuosity, enjoy it and then hope that Martinez will soon present us with something just as good.

Highly recommended for lovers of good YA realistic fiction.

An advanced copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Nomes.
384 reviews373 followers
September 7, 2011
Virtuosity is a gorgeously written book. I loved the smooth flowing prose from the start but what impressed me most was the way Jessica Martinez manages to evoke atmosphere and emotion ~ and her descriptions of music and the way it made me feel are *brilliant*. So succinct, never flowery ~ just the perfect blend of ache and beauty.

Virtuosity covers about two weeks in the life of Carmen ~ leading up to winning a future-changing prestigious award as a violinist. There's the perfect amount of back-story spliced in to compliment character depth and motivations. The plot pretty much straight-up concerns music and touches on themes such as performance anxiety, high (all-consuming) parent expectations, identity, and figuring out who you are verse who you want to be.

Pacing-wise: it's a dream to read. Smooth enough to settle in, compelling enough to keep reading the next chapter and tense enough to be anxious for the climax. The stakes are insanely high (and keep climbing higher) and the conflict is emotionally ache-y (in a number of sub-plots).

The conflict with love interest (fellow musician and main rival) Jeremy (British cute-guy) is startlingly compelling and definitely a mix of swoon and doubts. He's gorgeously flawed and a smidgen enigmatic. Plus: love/hate chemistry/curiosity <3. I really loved Jeremy, hey, and not just in a swoony way (there is that) but also as a character with his own story to tell.

What I most loved about Jessica Martinez's writing is how completely she gets under her character's skins. I felt like I was living the tension and the dream alongside them. Also, her villains are complex and understandable, even in their despicable moments.

Just writing this review has reminded me of so many scenes that took my breath away. A stunning book, guys.

Also ~ LOVED the ending. It was perfect ~ I love an ending that completes a character ARC more than an ending the finalises their story.

If the blurb of this book interests you, I really cannot see you being disappointed with this book. LOVED IT

thanks galleygrab :)
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
May 12, 2020
“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.

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.

Maybe Tomorrow by Stereophonics.

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.
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 pray they'll make P.A.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews767 followers
August 25, 2011
Where can I start with Virtuosity? My thoughts are kind of all jumbled up right now, having just finished this book which was an amazing read. I think I’m quite surprised by this, as when I’d read the blurb, I had certain expectations of the book in my head, but this book totally blew them away and gave me so much more!

Carmen Bianchi is a talented violinist, she’s been playing ever since she can remember, she’s won a Grammy, and even released her music, but everything she’s done in her career has been toward one goal; winning the Guarneri; a prestigious competition in classical music, which if she wins would provide her with performance opportunities all over the world, $50,000 and a four year loan of a one of a kind violin. Carmen has a realistic shot at winning the Guarneri and she is so close, that is until she meets her competition Jeremy King. He’s talented, drop dead gorgeous, egotistical and has a very good chance of shattering Carmen’s dream. However Carmen soon finds herself being drawn towards Jeremy, she starts secretly watching him play and agreeing to have dinner with him. Her mum Diana warns her to stay away from him, as she thinks that he’s just using Carmen to win the competition. But Carmen can’t help herself, is Jeremy really just using her to ruin her chances or could he really be interested in her?

I really felt for Carmen as she had such a controlling mother, who basically dictated everything in her life from her schedule, to what clothes she would be wearing to her performances, making her take Inderal tablets to calm her nerves and having her homeschooled. I felt that as Diana had been forced to end her own dream during its peak, the only way she could achieve her dream was by living it through Carmen. Also I just didn’t like Diana from the beginning, there always seemed something shady about her character that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I had always hoped that Jeremy and Carmen would end up together, despite having a rocky start to their relationship, the progression of their relationship through their emails and secret meetings was so sweet and it definitely tugged at my heartstrings.

The only thing which miffed me about Virtuosity was the ending, I felt that it could have ended more conclusively, I actually carried on scrolling thinking that there would be another chapter to end the story. But overall Jessica Martinez did a grand job with Virtuosity; I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.
334 reviews174 followers
September 9, 2011
The thing about reading books set heavily around music is that they get me sort of really obsessed. Like, when I read If I Stay by Gayle Forman, I totally fell for the cello. When I read Where She Went, If I Stay’s sequel, and Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I totally fell in love with the guitar. When I read The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder, I thought: Dude, I NEED to learn how to play the drums… And so forth.

But it’s actually really awesome, falling in love with these different instruments and learning about them. That’s why Virtuosity appealed to me from the very beginning. It focuses around Carmen, a famous teenage violinist about to enter an incredibly important violin competition that’ll determine the rest of her career. Along the way, though, she falls in love with Jeremy, her biggest competitor.

Forbidden love + classical music = I’m hooked. Totally.

So, I had a bit of a rocky start with the book. The prologue—I think that’s what it was, but more like a teaser from the book—was amazeballs and pulled me right in. The fifty pages after that…not so much.

You see, I'm not a very big fan of reading about people suffering from stage fright--it just really makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never really had to perform in front of a formidable-sized crowd myself, but I can imagine it wouldn’t go too well. That’s why it’s never fun feeling all that anxiety along with the main character Carmen, as was the case in this book. She’s also semi-addicted to these anti-anxiety pills she takes before concerts, and then becomes dependent enough that she’s taking them before doing anything she dreads, which is plenty of things, since she’s pretty wrecked.

And that’s kind of why I didn’t connect that much with her at the beginning. She was so…anxious about everything, that I felt it too. (Which is actually kind of a success for the author, when I think about it.) She’s so anxious that she’s kind of fallen out of love with the violin because of all the pressure that’s put on her.

Enter Jeremy, the enemy-competitor-arrogant arse (arse because he’s ENGLISH. Heh). He actually realllyyy annoyed me in the beginning. And that’s because he was supposed to, I’m pretty sure, since he could ruin Carmen’s career and all. But then! He turns out not to be so arrogant. And…yeah. You can guess where things go from there. What I loved about this whole turn of plot is that Jeremy is really a very 3D character. He’s swoonworthy, very much so, and he’s, yanno, English (though I wish the author has stressed his accent more often, that would have been great), but the thing I like about this the most is how he changes Carmen. How he turns her from a big ball of anxiety into someone more…easygoing. Independent. I loved that.

From thereon the violin-hating stuff turned into violin-lovin’ stuff, which, like I mentioned above, is something I’m really into. (Instrument-loving, that is.) And now, I like the violin too! Which is a victory in itself, really.

I loved the ending, mostly, but I wish it had been elaborated on just a little bit more. That would’ve been a lot more fulfilling, methinks. Although I did definitely like the setting. Not only was it well-done, it complemented the story pretty well, too! Go Chicago!

So all in all, I’m going to sum up this book into one word: INTENSE. And in the best way possible. I can’t wait to read everything else Ms. Martinez writes in the future!
Profile Image for Eunice.
255 reviews524 followers
April 20, 2013
I've always wanted to learn how to play a violin but never really got the chance. The closest I get on that was learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (I did actually have to coax and force my friend to teach me play it) which I have totally forgotten by now. Ha! But violin has always fascinates and mesmerizes me. So when I read the blurb of this book and learned that the main characters are violin prodigies I was absolutely sold! And boy was I not disappointed. Because reading Virtuosity was just as mesmerizing and captivating as listening to a violinist play.

Carmen was a character I instantly identified with. I was amazed and impressed by her accomplishments at a very young age and I truly felt the strong passion and love she had on being a musician. She was a very real and genuine character and although at first she let almost everything in her life be in control of her mother/manager who was totally overbearing and quite manipulative, she sooner realized that she has to start making decisions and choices for her own life.

Jeremy, although he started to be quite this arrogant and kind of a jerk guy I sooner found out that he was also this very soft and gentle guy who just also get nervous and insecure but covers it with his cool and proud facade. I love how he directly and indirectly contributed on making Carmen see how her life was and be an independent woman. Although he did make this mistake with Carmen I saw how he truly felt sorry about it and that his feelings for her were definitely genuine.

The romance here did happen a little too fast which in most case would have make me ran off to the other side but for some reason it worked for me here. Or more like, I actually didn't mind it because I just loved the characters. Ha! It was definitely okay though since as the story went on the development of Carmen and Jeremy's relationship and how it was explored felt really genuine and natural.

The musical aspect here was also really good. The playing was describe in such a very colorful and dramatic way and not really in technical way that might have my mind spinning in confusion. It was more on the feelings of the player and what the musical piece is trying to tell.

Overall, this was truly a great novel that centers about music, passion, love, discovery and choices. You really don't have to be a music lover to enjoy this book. It was beautifully written that I'm pretty sure it would easily make its way in your mind and heart. I recommend this.

This review can also be seen at Book Overdose
Profile Image for hayden.
1,061 reviews736 followers
January 15, 2012
From the day I was born, I sang.

At two years old, I'd make noise when my diaper was being changed, and I'd kick my legs

At three, I would bounce in my crib and sing.

At five, I would stand in front of the TV when Blue's Clues was on and shake my butt in my diaper, singing the Mail Song.

At eleven, I entered a singing competition, and when I was twelve, I won it.

The point of this timeline-style anecdote is that I've felt pressure my entire life, to do better, to do more, to improve, to win. I know exactly what Carmen and Jeremy are going through, which made this book SO easy to read. I related so much to this book, it wasn't even funny. I played violin as well, for three years. I wasn't very good, but I knew all the musical terms which made this book that much relatable. I remember that something Carmen couldn't do, I couldn't do either, and it felt like Jessica Martinez had written a book about me. Well, except for the fact that I definitely wasn't in a worldwide violin competition. And my mom wasn't my manager.

The book was actually REALLY SHORT. The font was GINORMOUS and there were under 300 pages, so it felt like I was zipping through it. My total reading time was about an hour; it really didn't take long. I read it on the airplane from Reno to Spokane. (Sorry, if my thoughts are jumbled up. I'm not very coherent in the brain today.)

Virtuosity was great.

Profile Image for Emily.
187 reviews303 followers
August 31, 2013
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.

This review and other fun bookish things can be found at http://daisychainbookreviews.blogspot...
Profile Image for Laura.
1,401 reviews209 followers
December 19, 2011
4.5 Stars

Virtuosity is a beautiful read. Powerful emotions and gorgeous scenes strung together with a pitch perfect, pure, warm tone that expresses all the passion, competitiveness, and conflicted feelings running through these characters. What does winning really mean if you can no longer feel the soaring passion and thrill of the competition, art, or love pumping through your body?

Carmen’s love of music is intertwined with her everything. Her life is defined and built around her love of the violin. But as her performances and art start to bring her awards and recognition, the pressures stack up along with her growing insecurities with her talent and future. The biggest challenge and step in her career is upon her. Two weeks until the most prestigious and awarding competition in her life. Everything she has been working for and sacrificing for is in reach, but then….she meets the competition.

Jeremy King. What to say about this young, British, cocky, charming violinist? Oh, hell—he would have stolen my heart in half a beat or less! :D I have never longed to jump into the pages of a book as much as I did when Carmen and Jeremy shared space, talked music, or fed off each other’s energy in these pages! I wanted a bite of the “tasty pocket of pizza goodness”, hear their music flow from their fingers and hearts, feel the jazz music warm my soul, and even feel the sticky coke stained floor of the ballpark under my feet! My heart just adored their time and energy together. At the same time though, Carmen and Jeremy tore my heart apart with their passion, vulnerability, and rivalry. Can you truly love and trust your competition?

This book depicts what competition can bring and take from a person’s soul. The toll it can take on one’s love and passion for their art and life. Readers will see and feel the pressures on Carmen, Jeremy, and their families in this story. Unless you want to see how many swears I can string together in one sentence, I will leave Carmen’s mother out of this review! :) I will let you meet her for yourself.

I highly recommend this beautiful first novel by Jessica Martinez. I cannot wait to see what she does next!
Profile Image for Anja.
603 reviews48 followers
August 22, 2015
Virtuosity war ein reiner Coverkauf, der böse in die Hose hätte gehen können. Ich bin gleichermaßen freudig wie verhalten an die Geschichte herangegangen und war überrascht, wie gut sie mir gefallen hat.
Das Buch ist alles andere als perfekt. Es geht zu schnell, etliche Sachen hätte ich mir ausführlicher und/oder langsamer gewünscht, um gewisse Entwicklungen besser nachvollziehen zu können. Manchmal liest sich die Gechichte wie ein Lückentext, bei dem die Lücken etwas zu groß sind. Ich finde es gut, wenn Autoren den Leser für intelligente Personen halten, die zwischen den Zeilen lesen und sich Dinge zusammenreimen können, denen man nicht alles vorbeten muss. Hier gab es imo allerdings ein bisschen zu viel Raum für eigene Ideen. Die Story schrammt außerdem manchmal nur ganz knapp an "zu weit hergeholt" vorbei und einige der Charaktere stehen kurz vor der Klischeegrenze.
Aber im Gesamteindruck hat mich das Alles nicht wirklich gestört, denn das Buch macht so vieles einfach nur richtig. Die Atmosphäre ist toll, das Musikthema finde ich prima und authentisch umgesetzt, Kitsch sucht man vergeblich, die zaghafte, zarte Romanze ist glaubwürdig. Außerdem ist die Hauptprotagonistin wirklich toll, ihr Verhalten sowie ihre Entwicklung perfekt nachvollziehbar. Die Geschichte packt und ist ziemlich emotional, ohne künstlich dramatisch zu sein. Alles in allem wirklich ganz toll.
Hätte auch eine höhere Wertung vergeben, wenn das Ende nicht so abrupt gewesen wäre. Da hätte ruhig noch etwas kommen dürfen, ein Epilog hätte der Geschichte gut getan.
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews122 followers
September 3, 2011
VIRTUOSITY is a book that I've seen all over the blogosphere, so I was pretty curious when I got it in the mail.

Carmen is a violinist. Her mother a failed musician has been the driving force that has pushed and encouraged Carmen to reach the potential that she has today. With a Grammy under her belt, and a place to compete for the Guarneri music prize - nothing is going to stop her. She's one of the best, if not THE best, but for the first time there's an ounce of doubt when she hears a boy called Jeremy play.

Turns out he may just be the one to worry about, and although she knows he's competition - she can't help how she's starting to feel.

There's a ridiculous amount of pressure on this girl and if not from the industry then there's her mother breathing down her neck. It's a bit too much for a 17 year old girl, so it's not surprising when she starts to become overwhelmed.

Carmen's mother is an interesting character. She has kept her daughter sheltered - in a way - from the outside world and has made her eat and breath the Violin. To the point where Carmen, perhaps sub - consciously thinks this is all she wants to do. To top it all off she has her hooked on pills and refuses to tell her daughter about her father when she has every right to know. These things always get to me. Why take away a child's right to know their father? It's wrong and cruel, but there's a lot about her mother I don't understand, and yet, despite all this, I couldn't quite bring myself to dislike her. She is obviously still grieving over a loss that she has to live through her daughter every day. It must be incredibly painful seeing anyone dear to you thrive in something that you had no chance but to let go.

I'm a little indifferent when it comes to Jeremy. He was arrogant and a complete jerk - there's not all that much too him apart from that in my opinion. The thing is that he knows he is both those things and seems to think that being nervous or using it as a defence mechanism is some kind of excuse. Hardly. There really wasn't anything appealing about him or anything that I connected with anyway, but I can see why him and Carmen would click.

One thing I have to mention is the part that music plays in this novel. A part of me felt sad when I would hear her play, when I would hear Jeremy play. They are obviously wonderful at what they do but I felt out of the loop - left out so to speak. I've read books like NAKED by Kevin Brooks and WHERE SHE WENT By Gayle Forman where music is a pivotal part of the book, but in those instances - alongside the protagonist, I felt that buzz, that excitement and wonder as they played, but this time around I felt like I wasn't given that, or either, I couldn't understand the beauty of it, or how the characters felt because I wasn't a part of their world. And the thing is that I'm not sure if this is purely just me being me, or if it was done intentionally. I know that both Jeremy and our MC did feel like others who weren't musicians couldn't understand how it really felt to do what they did, and I know that they were both very arrogant - it comes with the territory so it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, but when I felt out the loop, and when I felt like I couldn't feel that buzz - I wondered if it was the MC or author pushing me out, or the protagonist sub - consciously not connecting to her music anymore. I've probably completely confused you there, don't worry, I'm a little confused myself!

I have conflicted thoughts on the ending, but not ones that I can share without being spoiler-y - as much as I want to blurt them out, which sucks because I love to share my thoughts on every aspect of a novel. I will say that I would like to hope that she doesn't regret her choices when she looks back on life. That unlike her mother she is able to look back fondly at certain memories rather than allowing them to be too painful. Although the last page indicates to something more promising I still feel a little uneasy about how things ended, but I've never been good with loose ends and unanswered questions, I'm far to nosey for that!

Oh, and I found the constant British references quite amusing. I'm guessing she's a fan? As much as I wanted to say, we do not talk about the weather all the time, and we do not all drink tea! I kind of had to bite back a smile, because, well, I do. ;)
Profile Image for ♥ The Book Snob ♥.
51 reviews151 followers
June 4, 2013
Initial reaction: Oh, wow! Such a beautiful cover! And look at the blurp! You bet this is gonna be a superb read! :D

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After reading: 2.5 is what I'm rewarding Virtuosity with.

Seriously, I don't even know what to say about this one. I didn't like how it started, I didn't like how it ended. Mainly, I didn't like the plot.

The only thing I did like was that it revolved around music. And I, myself, am a stage performer. So I should've connected.

But I couldn't.

I liked that she had this hunger to win. But when hunger and determination change to desperation to such extent, things that are taken in consideration for a great and confident musician, definitely change.
Why did she have to be the BEST! Wasn't having everything good enough?

Parents often live their unfulfilled dreams through their children.
I really pity Diana, knowing how much some people hate pity, I still pity her. Her life in her youth years was destroyed. But that certainly didn't mean she had to do the same to her daughter. Having her daughter on pills to keep nervousness and anxiety away, which later she became dangerously addicted to, keeping her under such a tight leash.. poor girl! Couldn't even enjoy the benefits of being a beautiful teen.. ;P

But seriously. This book didn't impress me. I like books where I can connect with the character, even their story. Here, I didn't connect. I just felt pity, and bad for her.

Good things often come out of bad things. She got Jeremy out of her situation. A new hope, going to Julliard, too.
But that's where it ended.
Carmen did a brave and daring thing, going for the truth, putting her career and her family's reputation in jeopardy. I applaud her for that.
But this ending is not what I expected after such an unexpected and stoic move.
Jeremy and Carmen are sitting in a cafe, discussing about his future, when suddenly she gets an email from that hawk-eyed judge about a second chance and -
And that's it. That's where the book ends. No scene showing how she discusses this with Jeremy and the family. How she gets in touch with her mother and if they even reconcile. How, when they reach a decision, Jeremy and Carmen promise to write to each other or meet each other once a week. Or how they share an intense moment before parting.
No, nothing, nada, zilch.

Not at all happy. In fact, I'm extremely disappointed.


 photo tumblr_lru4l6PK8R1qknpv9o1_500_zps98c5376b.gif

So this is how my review will end, too. Half complete.

♥ XOXO ♥
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews707 followers
September 13, 2011

I have got a goofy grin pasted on my face right now because that ending has got me thinking about what could be. It's simply ripe with possibility! BUT I'm also recalling what I initially felt for Carmen: CONFUSED. I mean, what exactly was the problem here? She had got parents who support her and an actual talent for her passion! But read a bit more, and I saw that getting where she was was not easy especially with a mother who drove her a little too hard and her issues on perfoming on stage. Am I making it so it sounds mundane and basic? It really wasn't either of those, but things did get more exciting and complicated with the entry of Jeremy into her life. It is this same fellow who had me at utterly shocked (and slightly indignant) at one point, only later to have me me at nodding my head in approval.

But other than that open ending, what else did I enjoy? Well, for starters there's an absence of false modesty. Both Carmen and Jeremy knew what they could do and avoided pretending about it. I loved that! But it's the fact that both of them are talented and in the same competition that caused the friction. Note, that I'd normally be put off by the blink-speed rate at which they got together, but I could let that aspect slide because the predicament they found themselves in was a novel one for me. A predicament that hinged on winning the contest because there could only be one winner right? And I seriously doubted that either of them would have taken losing to the other easily. Putting it simply, I wanted to know how things would turn out. Imagine it: They wanted the same thing, but also wanted each other. Could they both get what they wanted?

But I'll never know will I? Because when that thing took place, I was seriously angered! From being interesting and slightly different, VIRTUOSITY took a turn for the overly-dramatic! If that (and by that I mean, had not taken place, I seriously could have LOVED this book.

Still, I do love how the VIRTUOSITY allows me to come up with my own what will be's.

Thanks Simon&Schuster!
Profile Image for Lenore Appelhans.
Author 8 books685 followers
April 16, 2011
Carmen is a 17 year old violin prodigy, already accepted to Julliard, already winner of a classical music Grammy. She is pushed to achieve increasing greater success by her mother Diana, a former opera singer who lost her promising career due to a medical condition. As the story opens, Carmen is preparing for a prestigious violin competition that takes place only once every four years. If Carmen wins, she’ll tour the world. Losing is not an option. Her main competition is Jeremy - a handsome Brit who takes a romantic interest in her.

Despite her fame and talent, Carmen comes off as a very relatable teen. She’s sheltered by her controlling mother, which makes her naïve. The tension between Carmen and Jeremy (and between Carmen and her mother for that matter) is palpable and is the driving force behind the narrative – is Jeremy using Carmen or does he really care about her? Does Carmen’s mother have her best interests at heart or is she merely using Carmen as vehicle to restore her own broken dreams?

The narrative also affords the reader a fascinating inside look at the competitive world of classical music and what it takes to be world-class. I loved it!
Profile Image for Aruskabomb.
107 reviews198 followers
July 24, 2012
Am I the only one who noticed that the MC's eye colour changes from brown to "grass green"? I mean, I'd heard of dynamic characters but this is taking it to another level. There were some things that didn't sit well with me but I enjoyed the overall feel.

Review to come.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,700 reviews873 followers
October 20, 2011
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

First-person perspective young-adult novels and I have a tricky but pretty reliable relationship etched out: if they are handled well and maturely I can legitimately love them, but if the author doesn't have the panache to pass their voice as a believable teen it's a lost cause with no hope. Happily for me, Jessica Martinez shines in her debut novel in the voice, mind and world of Carmen Bianchi, world-class violinist. Believable without trying too hard, without sounding too-mature for her years, Carmen is a great character in a more-than-good-but-not-great novel. Carmen shines in this vehicle, elevating a somewhat overused general plot, infusing it with personality and vitality. This is definitely a case of a character making the book better than it should be, on its own.

Carmen is a great character because she's real and grounded. She's anal, insecure, sarcastic, funny, kind and a complete pushover. I liked the multi-faceted and even conflicting aspects of her personality: by no means is this "Medusa-haired" heroine a Mary Sue. Like many teen girls, she constantly searches for approval, to be thought "normal" - usual teen emotions that keep her relatable amid the Grammys, and $1.2 million dollar instruments. She's unabashedly great at said violin as well: winner of a Grammy and world acclaim, she should be arrogant, cocky. . . but she remains herself throughout. I did find a couple of her actions to be pretty annoying and downright silly (her assumptions about Jeremy's email are immediate and judgmental) but I don't have to love everything the character does to love the character herself. She's just so human in an outrageous, extremely pressured position. Under ridiculous strain of her stage-mom's expectations and transferred dreams, Carmen has little to no control over her life. Day-to-day or even what her dreams are is dictated by her mother with "an iron fist with a french manicure." Carmen, sadly, though world-class and immensely talented, never plays for herself or her own pleasure. She plays for her mother to vicariously live a failed career, for a teacher to extend his own impact on the musical world and that is sadly representative for Carmen's entire life. As music is so personal with an almost tangible impact upon Carmen, it's incredibly easy to commiserate and mourn with her as her joy in violin is turned into something else.

Other characters sadly lack the vivacity and life of Carmen. Her taciturn Ukrainian teacher Yuri is particularly easy to visualize but lacks any dimensions or personality outside of "gruff old man." I found Carmen's mother, always referred by Carmen with her given name of Diana (which I also very telling of their relationship) to be a depressingly one-dimensional antagonist. She seems to have no love or empathy in her for her daughter or her largely unseen husband Clark - focusely solely on her daughter's career as a surrogate for her curtailed one earlier. Diana's motivations for pushing Carmen would be much more understandable, even palatable, if they were for Carmen (wanting her to be happy, great at what she loves, follow her dreams) instead of trying to mold her into Diana II. Jeremy King, he of the not-so-subtle-last-name also failed to impress me the first half of the novel. Though I didn't jump on Carmen's hate bandwagon he makes a pretty bad, then pretty bland impression. I never saw his supposedly irresistible charisma - hell, I barely saw any personality from him! He was more of a drain on Carmen than a support, in my opinion, and I would've liked a nicer, kinder character infinitely better. He's supposedly Carmen's love interest I didn't really feel the chemistry between the two until they were pretty much de facto paired up. They truly work together and the novel is most evoactive when either Jeremy or Carmen play the violin. The descriptions and personal reactions to music are beyond compare in this novel: they stand as my favorite parts of the entire book.

The finale of the novel took me by surprise, while being absolutely fulfilling. Not the big reveal/betrayal, but the action stemming from the event. Carmen took me by complete surprise, but did what ultimately feels right for her. Regardless of how you feel about her decision, at least this time, for once, it was HER decision. Not her mother's, not Yuri's, not the doctor's and not even Jeremy's. . . purely and wholly Carmen. The ending is rather open-ended for a conclusion to a standalone novel, but I loved how the author left it. The world seems limitless, with anything possible for Carmen.
Profile Image for Jordyn.
178 reviews17 followers
October 3, 2011
Carmen is a young violin virtuoso who already has a Grammy under her belt and a scholarship to Juliard, but for her that's not enough. Her career in music hinges on winning the prestigious Guarneri competition, which comes with a worldwide, year-long tour. She must win not only for herself, but also for her mother whose own career as an opera singer was cut short and has poured her love for music into her daughter. When Carmen begins to fall for her competition, Jeremy King, she finds that she also has to confront her reliance on the anti-anxiety pills she takes before every performance - and most of her lessons. Though her mother says that taking the pills is ethical and her doctor assures her you can't become addicted, Carmen has her doubts.

This book is brilliant. I know that. From the characters and plot to the sheer writing ability, there's genius at work here. And yet in spite of that something in this book didn't sit right with me. I didn't love it the way so many others have seemed to. Carmen is a sharp, smart, and sheltered teen who nevertheless seemed to me much older than her 17 years. She's naive, but has a sort of confidence that comes from not only being one of the best (if not the best), but also from being so incredibly comfortable in her world. Though the book's synopsis makes a point of Carmen's addiction to her anti-anxiety drugs, the fact is that very early on in the book she gives up the pills, knowing that there's something wrong in her taking them. As someone who admittedly knows absolutely nothing about the classical/competitive music worlds and is as tone-deaf as they come, the subtle comparisons between anti-anxiety medication and athletes taking steroids made me uneasy; it doesn't seem comparable to me, but again, I could be very wrong on this. Another thing that confused me was the fact that Carmen called her mother by her first name. It fit well with the formal and sometimes stiff feeling of their relationship, but I wish the reasons behind it had been explained.

Carmen's mother was a very shades-of-grey character; in the beginning she seemed strict and a bit overbearing, but not horrible. However, she got worse as the book went on and by the end I absolutely hated her. Jeremy King was a similarly confusing character, at least in some ways. He's introduced as Carmen's only "real" competition in the Guarneri and this puts their relationship in a weird spot: is he using her, or does he genuinely like her? The scenes between Carmen and Jeremy - especially their dialogue - was always brilliant. These two had moments that had me laughing out loud. Despite everything going on around them and the fact that their relationship seemed very sudden, I wanted these two to end up together and happy.

I can't quite pinpoint why I didn't love this book like I should have, but I suspect it might be a combination of the subject matter (competition-music stories are a hard sell with me) and Carmen's character. Though she was likeable and sympathetic, I didn't ever really feel her love for the music that would have carried me through the book. I felt her conflicting feelings when it came to her mother, the pills, and Jeremy. I knew that she loved her stepfather and that the competition was important to her, however her mother's overbearing need for her to be the best overshadowed whatever feelings Carmen may have had about the situation. I never felt like she really loved what she was doing and partly because of this I kept wondering why, when she had so much, the Guarneri was so important. Because Carmen isn't an unknown talent; she has multiple CDs out, a scholarship to Juliard, a Grammy win, and plenty of financial support. I suspect that my feelings on this could possibly be because I've never played an instrument myself (or at least, never played one well. or passably.) and that others, who have more musical experience, will be able to see Carmen's love for the music where I couldn't.

This book is brilliant and well-written, especially in terms of atmosphere, and has a captivating story. The fact that I didn't love it doesn't mean you won't.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews1,013 followers
October 19, 2011
Originally published here.

I wasn't really planning on reading VIRTUOSITY. I'm not sure why, because I'm actually often drawn to stories featuring prodigies or people with highly regimented lifestyles due to their skills/abilities/life choices. Also, I like the title. But, the cover doesn't do a whole lot for me (it looks more paranormal than contemporary). Nothing wrong with it, but I will say that it would help if she was at least holding a violin. Then a galley floated my way, and so I went on the hunt for a few reliable reviews. And wouldn't you know, I found them. Enough of them to prod me to see for myself. I actually started VIRTUOSITY right after finishing another book, somewhere in the vicinity of midnight, and I was absorbed quickly and deeply enough that I just read it straight through. I kind of feel like it's one of the ones best read that way, one of the ones that benefits largely from a quantity of undivided attention and a lack of breaks throughout.

Carmen Bianchi is a virtuoso. Her mother sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera at an unprecedentedly young age. All set to ride her stardom high, her career was cut short by an unexpected operation and an unexpected pregnancy. And so she transferred all of her drive, all her expectation, all her determination onto her daughter. And so Carmen eats, drinks, and breathes the violin. Her days are regimented to within an inch of her life, and her activities are sharply curtailed by her demanding schedule. With the most important competition of her life just a few short weeks away, she decides to scope out the competition. But it turns out Jeremy King isn't exactly the way she pictured him. And yet while his manner (both onstage and off) is about as far from her own as possible, he does share an unmatched understanding of what her life is like. Both that overwhelmingly innate love of music and the unparalleled isolation the lifestyle engenders. And so an alarmingly inconvenient friendship is struck up just at the moment when she needs to be the most focused and cutthroat she's ever been in her life.

I have never come anywhere even remotely in the vicinity of the kind of talent and dedication Carmen (and Jeremy) possess in this story. But I did grow up surrounded by music, and I played one instrument or another (or a few) nearly every day of my life from the time that I was four years old on. My mother taught me two of them. I was one of her many students, and so there was always the sound of music, the talk of music, and the practice and performance of music in the house. As a result, I was immediately drawn to Carmen's focus and love of everything that goes into the composition, the discipline, the appreciation, and the skill involved in her vocation. Unlike Carmen, however, I was always given the choice. Given options. And so my heart went out to her in sympathy for having none of those. I wanted her to explore the world outside. I wanted her to stand up to her mother and her horrible, horrible destructive influence. And at the same time I was fearful of the repercussions, fearful of what might be unintentionally but inevitably lost in the process. Beauty and fear make up the primary emotions of this novel, and I think the strength of it lies in those emotions and in the incredibly authentic way Jessica Martinez portrayed Carmen's life. I liked her. I liked Jeremy. Both of them so painfully solitary in their ways. And I really liked her mother, her stepfather, her tutor Helen, and her trollish instructor Yuri. I mean, I hated some of them, but I hated them right, you know? In fact, my heart was wrung several times throughout VIRTUOSITY, and I was in the dark all the way up to the very end as to how things were going to turn out. I, for one, was very pleased with the "ending" Carmen got, and I'm definitely looking forward to Jessica Martinez's next offering.
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,041 followers
May 2, 2015
This review is also available over at my blog.


Actual rating is 4.5 stars.

I don't know why I held back from reading this. I had it, just sitting on my shelf, for several months, but I honestly have no idea why it took me so long to just pick it up and read it. I actually like music-themed YA books and wanna read more of them, because I think I've only ever read, like, two. Including this one. Other books had music themes sprinkled onto it, like the protagonist being a musician, or the protagonist's love interest/boyfriend being in a band, etc, but it was never truly about music.

This book is my current favorite of the music-themed YA genre.

Carmen Bianchi is a young girl who has her life all planned out, including winning the prestigious Guarneri competition, that will allow all her dreams to come true. There's only one problem: Jeremy King, her toughest competition, and also the guy she's falling for. On top of all of that, Carmen has kept a secret that she's been taking anti-anxiety drugs before performing, and she feels pressured by her mother's insisting that she keeps taking them still, even though she's sick of not feeling anything during her performances.

The plot is basically how Carmen is dealing with the stress of the Guarneri competition, added up with her mom's constant high expectations for her and also the fact that Jeremy might beat her and she could lose everything. The characters were all so likable and it helped me get into the story a lot more. The plot itself was a tiny bit predictable, though, at least for me.

I loved Carmen because she was very relatable for me, in that she feels pressured by what everyone around her is expecting her to do what she's told, and of course, that she sometimes lets her nerves get the best of her. All of that was just so me, and it made her very likable. I also thought that she made all the right decisions throughout the book. And she never annoyed me, so yay for that. :D

Jeremy King. This guy, I will admit, was a douche at times. But a likable one. By the end of the book I was just as in love with him as Carmen was. He was just awesome. <3

As for the romance between the two, I did feel that sometimes they moved a little too fast. Their first kiss was a little too fast for me as well. But I thought that overall their romance was very cute, and I totally ship them.

I thought the ending was perfect. Just perfect. Carmen made very smart decisions leading up to it, and even though the ending was in a way sort of bittersweet, I still thought it was the best ending this book could have. Not too Happily Ever After, but not too heartbreaking either.

I regret not reading this book sooner. I really didn't know why. I like music-themed YA books, and this book in particular had really great reviews, so I guess I was just holding back for no reason. Still, I thought this was a great book and the perfect way to get you into the music-themed side of YA. :)
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 14 books1,336 followers
October 12, 2011
Gayle Forman’s world-of-music based IF I STAY and its sequel WHERE SHE WENT are two of my top five favorite young adult books of all time, so the moment I learned about Jessica Martinez’s VIRTUOSITY, I was twitching to get a copy. But I have to admit, going in I was nervous. Was I was putting too much pressure on this debut, wanting to recreate the feelings and sweeping obsession those other two books inspired? Could this possibly live up to the hype and my admittedly high expectations? Well, I’m very happy to say that all my anxiety was a total wasted effort.

VIRTUOSITY has a hot British guy (seriously, what is it about British men that are so yummy?), a strong but flawed protagonist, soulful music, the tension and drama of a competition background, a scheming Mother Dearest, and a variety of plot twists that kept me flipping through the pages on warp speed. While the romantic relationship did feel perhaps like it was a bit in fast forward, the way Carmen and Jeremy complemented and completed each other was brilliantly done, and the duo’s banter and stolen dates left me all gooey inside. Ms. Martinez handled the very real issues of anxiety and prescription drug over-usage beautifully and realistically, and the Mama drama just plain out rocked. Hating that woman was simply too much fun. (I love having a good villain in a story, and the best ones have redeemable qualities like Diana).

Without giving away spoilers, Carmen had some tough choices and decisions to make throughout the novel but she exuded grace and intelligence as she tackled them. The best part about Carmen though was her flaws. The girl had a temper. She wasn’t always strong—in fact, she had a nasty habit of letting other people dictate her life and choices in the past and had to battle to keep it from continuing. But she knew who she was, and she knew she had talent. She was real. And the love interest, Jeremy, managed to also live in the in-between, not being completely perfect and blonde-god like (he made one gigantic, colossal mistake with Carmen for sure) but also lending her his strength when she needed it, and helping Carmen to discover the independent woman hidden inside.

If I had any issues with the book, it would be the falling on the homeschool stereotype of socialization issues (I am a proud homeschool Mama), and the somewhat abrupt ‘falling in love’ that takes place between the characters in such a short window of time. I would have also loved a few more scenes with Heidi as it revealed a lighthearted side to Carmen that was refreshing. But overall, this spectacular debut gave me exactly what I wanted. The beauty of music, the excitement of following and living your passion, the sweetness of first love, a few well-placed laughs, and even a few sentimental tears.

Overall, if you loved the movie AUGUST RUSH, are a fellow Gayle Forman fan, and/or if you’ve ever played an instrument—or wished you could, this book is definitely for you.
Profile Image for Gabbi  Calabrese.
93 reviews3 followers
January 3, 2012

I'm sitting here trying to write this review, and all I can think to say is, "OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVER. READ IT NOW OR PREPARE TO FACE MY WRATH." But somehow I know that is not an acceptable review. So I'll do my best to put all of Virtuosity's awesomeness into words.

I'd been on a pretty bad reading streak, and Virtuosity was just what I needed to break through that. This book had its claws in me from the very beginning. The back and forth banter between Carmen and her best friend is comical and realistic and the whole first scene is just very funny and awkward. I LOVED IT! The writing is so friggin amazeballs, too. Carmen's voice comes through loud and clear and I was emotionally invested IMMEDIATELY. I didn't want to stop reading at all, which is rare when I am reading off of a computer screen.

I adored Carmen. She was a funny, sweet, and completely naive. All she ever really knew how to do was be the best at violin, and then here comes some guy from London who may possibly be better than her and ruin her career! Carmen began on a very, very short leash with her mother, and she had to learn to make it longer and become more independent. She had to learn that there was more to life than just violin and being the best. She has to learn to do what her conscience tells her, rather than what everyone else tells her, and she has to make some major sacrifices. She was so, so, so, so easy to relate to. Her competitive streak, her desire to be able to be who she wanted to be, her need to be loved, her struggle to do the right thing. She's human and flawed and so very real.

And then there's Jeremy. OMG JEREMYYYYY. This dude has problems to. He's not perfect. He;s obnoxious, super competitive, and his motives are questionable. But he's so wonderful. He makes a lot of mistakes. A LOT. Like begging Carmen for something he should never in a million years even think bout asking her. He really did surprise me. I figured he was going to be an arrogant asshole, but he had a side to him that I would have never guessed and I LOVED IT. Oh my gosh did I love it.

Carmen's mom was a bitch. END OF STORY.

This whole thing was just GAAAAHH MARVELOUS. One of those books, you know? I expected this to be a lot darker. I figured the drug addiction would be a prominent point in the plot, and that this would be about Carmen's downward spiral into all the negative aspects of performing. I'm so glad it wasn't. Instead, it was more about Carmen discovering who she is, learning how to be her own person, learning to grow up and make decisions, learning to love even when she shouldn't, learning that nobody and nothing is perfect, learning that her life needs to be revolved around more than one thing, and simply learning to be Carmen.
Profile Image for Danya.
395 reviews56 followers
December 23, 2015
My reaction: I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the music performance industry; I thought the portrayal rang quite true from everything I've heard about it.  The main characters Carmen and Jeremy were both likeable and easy to relate to, despite the fact that unlike them I have never participated in any major music competitions. Carmen may be innocent and naive, but it's believable, because she's intelligent too. We see her mature throughout the novel and end up making some decisions I had to really respect. And the writing style was easy to get into and smooth throughout.

I'm not typically a big fan of the open ending, but I thought it kind of worked for this book — we're given two possibilities of Carmen's future, and they're both hopeful. In particular, I thought the open ending when it came to resolution with Carmen's mom was realistic; I was glad to see it didn't get sappy or sugar-coated. Their relationship is one filled with tension, due mainly to Diana's attempt to live vicariously through Carmen's ascent as a performer — a role seen often for parents of musicians who are, or were, musically talented themselves, but in the case of Virtuosity, it's done well. It was refreshing to see that Martinez does not back down from making the mother pushy and controlling, even to the very end.

Best aspect: The twist that the competitive angle put on Carmen and Jeremy's relationship. It's a realistic way of keeping them apart and putting up a barrier without involving a tired old love triangle like we see so often these days. This 'I-like-him-but-I-can't-trust-him' mentality added a whole other layer to their romance.

If I could change something... Judging from the back cover, I expected the Inderal and Carmen's addiction to play a larger role in the storyline than they actually did. It seemed more like they were added in there to show that some musicians do go through these situations, rather than as a natural part of Carmen's journey. I wasn't too sure about how certain aspects of the addiction were handled, as well. ()

In five words or less: entertaining and enlightening

Read if you liked: The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer-Wolff, Mountain Solo by Jeanette Ingold

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.
Profile Image for Rogier.
225 reviews93 followers
October 16, 2011

my thoughts

cover: The cover does not really tell me something about this book. Its just nice to look at. The pink-reddish in contrast to the black silhouette. The uk cover is a bit plain and boring for my taste . Just a girl on the cover . she whore that dress in a scene

book: I first saw this on my on one of my favorite blogs as a review book. I looked it up on goodreads and added it to my tbr/wishlist shelf. When i got the galley grab email, i was so exited seeing it downloaded it along with pledge and legacy ,will be reading those soon.

Carmen Bianchi our leading lady has got it all , fame and fortune and she's only 17 but has social and family issues. I felt for her ,like i wanted to be there as a friend. Her stress and all.

Jeremy King is the romantic intrest. He was not the ''BAD BOY" but not the perfect goody two shoes boyfriend. A normal British young teenage dude ,except being a music prodigy. I think a couple of galls wil swoon over his british accent and appearence in their mind, will say this he played rugby
There was no insta-love I admire that. I like love triangles, but sometimes its overkill and so overdone. This does not have that, triangles i mean. Miss Martinez did not focus much on the romance but more on the coming of age of Carmen and facing her fears. I wanted to know a little bit more bouth Jeremy's life and such

Other than Jeremy and Carmen, my favorite character was Clark, her step dad. A true father and a fanatic White socks fan. OK a tad fanatic.

Had no trouble with Jessica's writing and the pasing of virtuosity. Some 50 or so pages were a bit slow but the remaining 100 pages were exiting. The ending was thoroughly good but it was bittersweet.

Was exited for this book cause i always wanted to play the violin but a music instructor said that a drum or a instrument of that sort would be for me. Something with differentiating music tones and have small hands for a male , not femine but small hands. When i encountered a classical piece in this book, i looked it up on youtube. Virtuosity gave me a look in the world of musicians and the classical type. Jessica is one, a musician and plays the violin beautifully. Recordings of here are on here site. JessicaMartinez.com . If you click on it you will here her recordings immediately under tab "Extras".

NOTE; listened to her recordings while reading Virtuosity to get me in the mood to read her book and i enjoyed it even more.
Profile Image for Joy (joyous reads).
1,486 reviews291 followers
October 3, 2011
At the youthful age of seventeen, Carmen has not really lived a life of a normal teenager. Having spent most of her young life rehearsing, touring, and competing, you could say that her life experience is pretty much limited to music. She’s a violin virtuoso; amassing awards, recognition and accolades is more of her forte than worrying about crushes and what to wear for the dance. She’s homeschooled and the only exposure she has with boys is through competition. She’s focused on winning the most prestigious award for a violinist like her – the Guarneri. Only one person stands in her way and the only person even her could admit is a worthy adversary – British fellow virtuoso, Jeremy King.

I love, love, love music themed books. It doesn’t matter what genre of music is being used, for some reason, it just makes the story infinitely better for me.

Sometimes, when I read a book about something specific and exclusive, I could tell whether the knowledge was research-based or the author was speaking from first hand knowledge. Well, this author is a wealth of classical and musical information. It’s so easy to sound pretentious when you write about classical music but Ms. Martinez was definitely the opposite of that. The illustrative writing was so visceral that I could almost hear the melancholy notes of Carmen’s playing.

Virtuosity gave me a chance to understand the pressure facing talented musicians and what usually lead them astray. In Carmen’s case, it was sad to see that the most burdening pressure came from her mom. It was comprehensible to a degree why her mother was the way she was but it was still disconcerting to read about a mother forcing her daughter to take addictive anxiety pills for the sake of winning. That’s not the only thing she did…you’d have to read the book to find out. It’s deplorable and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I love the banter between characters. Jeremy is one of those arrogant boys that we readers can’t help but love. I had fun reading their arguments, no matter how trivial they may have been sometimes.
This is a beautiful story with equally beautiful writing. But sadly, the ending left me a bit unfulfilled. It makes me wonder if there will be a sequel. So many possibilities…I read this through S & S galley grab and it’s one of those books that I’m going to need a copy for future re-read.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,237 followers
October 7, 2011
Let me be (one of) the first to say it:

Virtuosity just may be the strongest debut of 2011. And I have read enough of them to form an educated opinion.

I don’t know about you guys but I love books about music. Or movies about music. Or manga about music… you get the idea. (And if you haven’t yet looked up Nodame Cantabile, I reckon you should.) Anyway, Virtuosity is a well crafted novel that allows the reader a close look into the life of a musical prodigy. In this case, the prodigy would be Carmen and the instrument of choice would be the violin. Ms. Martinez does a splendid job in creating Carmen. Her neuroses, her determination, the person she is underneath all the accolades, all the glamour foisted upon her public persona is very well portrayed. I especially empathized with her isolation from people of her own age and a life that other kids take for granted. Also, I loved how the scenes that related the times she played the violin were narrated. They were powerful and led the reader close to the moment when the violinist makes magic with her violin.

The plot is refreshing and very relevant and I especially love how Martinez explored the rifts between the parents and Carmen without demonizing the adults. The sense of confusion, the bewilderment, the utter betrayal – these are so well conveyed that you can’t help but be swept into the world where people will do just about anything for a win.

The love interest is also intriguing but it is Carmen who carries the show. And the ending was so beautifully done. I like it when endings are somewhat left open to the interpretation without tying up every single thread all neat and tidy. This is not to imply that the book ends without addressing all relevant questions. No. I just mean that the book ends on a note of possibility, on a note of a future that the reader would want for Carmen.

It really is a fantastic novel and I look forward to seeing what Ms. Martinez comes up with next. I recommend this book, guys. If you want a passionate contemporary, this is for you. Even if you don’t like contemporaries, I think you should give this one a try. It’s well written and has a lot of heart. You’ll enjoy it.
Profile Image for Shanyn.
375 reviews141 followers
April 22, 2011
I have been looking forward to reading Virtuosity from the moment my friend Katie (sophistikatied.com) told me about it. I really love the cover and music is a topic that I generally love to read about.

I had not read any violin/classical music based books, and did not know much about the topic in general, but Jessica Martinez does an excellent job of showing the passion and dedication of serious violin players. She even mentions the marks the players have on their necks from holding the violin, which I had never considered before (BEWARE: If you search Google images to see what this mark may look like you will see many pictures of spiders, as there is apparently one called the violin).

I had high expectations overall for this book, but I did not know how complicated and emotional it would be. It is not simply a story about a girl training for a violin competition - Martinez really gets deep into Carmen's emotions and life. When there is such a huge focus on a competition, often a book will neglect other aspects of the main character's life as they prepare - Virtuosity did an excellent job of balancing it all appropriately. Yes, Carmen did think about her violin playing and the competition quite a bit, but she also dealt with family and a relationship, and her thought processes were divided appropriately.

I read this book while on a plane, and it kept me riveted and passed the time quite well. I had a few 'OH!' moments while reading, which really amped up the book for me - when an author can write in a plot scene that catches me off guard (and flows well with the story), I am extra appreciative because it shows the depth of the author and their writing.

I feel I have a slightly better understanding of the classical music world after reading Virtuosity - of course, there is no way I can totally understand without being a violinist myself, but Carmen describes her thoughts in such a way that you can relate even if you have no knowledge of her world.

I really can't wait for another book from Jessica Martinez. Virtuosity was beautiful, full of emotion, and heartbreaking. This is a must read for fans of music.
Profile Image for Steph Su.
958 reviews450 followers
July 19, 2011
I delight—and simultaneously despair—when a book is more than what its synopsis implies. I delight because is better than I expected. I despair because I wouldn’t have picked it up on account of its synopsis had someone not convinced me to read it, and I despair that others might miss out on it for the same reason I almost did.

VIRTUOSITY’s synopsis suggests that Carmen’s main conflict will be against her performance anxiety and Jeremy, but the fact is that there is so much more going on in this book. In fact, my favorite part of this read was not even mentioned in the synopsis: Carmen’s struggle with her overbearing mother. Parents are often cast in the adversarial role in adolescent fiction and reality, but the fact of the matter is that it is extremely difficult to write a believably antagonistic parent. That’s where Jessica Martinez succeeds. Carmen’s mother, Diana, is a failed musician, and channels all of her hopes and demands onto Carmen. Their relationship is wonderfully fraught with good intentions and poor actions. I found myself wanting to reach into the book and strangle Diana a little—and that’s how I know when a character is well-written.

The romance between Carmen and Jeremy is still a bit of a stretch and a YA cliché, but Martinez lets Carmen’s history of crippling performance anxiety unfold in such a way as to wring your heart. VIRTUOSITY is, simply put, a warm contemporary read that should satisfy even the most jaded of readers.
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