Virtuosity Book Review

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Carmen is a violinist, a child prodigy with an over-bearing stage mom, an old-as-dirt but brilliant instructor, and a looming violin competition that will either make or break her career. Jeremy is the competition. As she gets to know Jeremy though, Carmen begins reevaluating her life. Does she really need drugs, even prescribed drugs, to keep down her anxiety? Can she really like someone who is supposed to be the enemy? And more importantly, does she really want to win?

As a violinist myself, although by no means remotely child prodigy like in nature, I picked up this book purely for it's content. Halfway through I was rolling my eyes, unable to get past the teen angst ridden romance breeding between Carmen and Jeremy. I was making all kinds of sweeping guesses as to how the book would end and truthfully, at least in the beginning and middle, I did not think Carmen deserved to win. Not because she wasn't good, but because she really didn't want or need it. But then the end came and I was wrong.

Virtuosity is so much more than a romance. It is about a girl, even one whose path seems so clearly cut out for her, who is searching for herself. Violin has always been the only option, as her mother made all too clear. Everything in Carmen's life revolves around the violin. Except for the occasional run with her step-dad, Carmen's sleep schedule, schooling, work, business, and relationship with her mother are all she knows. Jeremy isn't just a love interest, he is the one who shows her that there is more to life than competition, more to herself than a violin.

In the end, Carmen is forced to make some very hard and very grown-up choices, but they are her choices and there was a pride in this accomplishment, more pride than I would have felt over any competition. Despite my resistance, Virtuosity was a very solid book for me with two wonderful characters who made this romance critic fall in love.

Minor flaw: Isn't that cover terrible? Would you have known that this was a book about a violinist? I think this may make my end of the year category for "Best Book Hidden Under the Worst Cover".