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....
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Inspired and affecting, Virtuosity is a stunning blend of romance and determination. With a protagonist who is obviously unique and different, yet easy to get behind and understand, and a love interest that is both charming and awkward, the characters absolutely shine. Beautifully written and smoothly executed, Martinez’s debut is both stellar and memorable.
The Extended Version:
Carmen is anything but normal, not only because of how talented she is with the violin but from her upbringing and day to day norms as a result of her talent. Having few friends, and a certain shyness in social situations, she is both enjoyable and empathetic. Struggling both with stage fright and the full impact of her dreams, and what it would mean to either win this competition or not, she faces some rough situations. Her development and growth is fabulously handled, with her motivations and defining points both obvious and subtle throughout.
Jeremy is the kind of cocky that is anything but, both charismatic and uncomfortable. Holding his own secrets and reasons for competing, yet having a certain raw truth about him that will grasp readers, Jeremy is not only a perfect opponent for Carmen but a great love interest as well. While his loyalties certainly come into play, and readers cannot always guess exactly what is going on with him, Jeremy’s overall characterization is as fleshed out as Carmen’s.
Though a simple plot in nature, Martinez ratchets up both the adrenaline factor and the questions as well, throwing in plenty of twists throughout to keep readers guessing. With some poignant and arresting scenes mixed in with more lighthearted, fun and even softly romantic ones, the pacing has a smooth and easy flow to it, never letting readers get bored. Though more open ended in nature at the conclusion of the book, Martinez leaves both her characters and her readers in a good place, letting them imagine their own final endings for both Jeremy and Carmen.
Beautifully written, almost lyrical in nature, with an edge infused throughout the writing, Martinez’s talent shines in both the descriptions and the voice. Thrusting readers into the life of competitive and career orchestra, without making it overbearing, she not only builds her settings but the specific world as well. Keeping an authentic and easy to mesh with note to everything, the realism of this book is both vivid and kept in the background, in the perfect blending of the two.
Different from many books in its genre, and a fantastic blend of competition and romance, Virtuosity is a stellar and gripping debut. Showing readers a specific world that is likely new to them, while still keeping a teenage and fun element to everything, Martinez will engage readers from page one without any problem. Her characters are fabulously done, and both endearing and memorable, making Virtuosity a must read.
Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 18, 2011