Book Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

For the first time in nearly ten years, I have felt the urge to take my violin out of its case. That urge came while reading Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.

Virtuosity tells the story of 17-year-old violin virtuoso Carmen Bianchi, as she prepares for the most important competition of her career. It’s absolutely the worst time for her to fall in love, but that proves difficult after she meets Jeremy: the smug, handsome, British competitor she’ll be facing in the Guarneri Competition. She should absolutely not kiss him. But Jeremy understands her more than anyone else; he has, after all, lived a very similar life. But no matter how much Jeremy gets her, Carmen still can’t bring herself to disclose her secret: that no matter how talented she is, Carmen just can’t manage to perform without taking anti-anxiety drugs. And the longer she performs, the more dependent she becomes.

I’m pretty much just a fan these days, but in high school I was very much involved in the world of classical music: I played violin, I sang in choir, and I was part of a teen opera company. I’ve never been so grateful for this background than while reading Virtuosity — but make no mistake; this book will be loved by readers regardless of their musical experience. It is, simply, brilliant.

Virtuosity is just a great story, told beautifully. The drama perfectly captures the scary-competitive nature of the classical music world, without ever tipping towards the melodramatic side. This world is real, and Jessica Martinez vividly brings it to life without ever exaggerating it.

But it’s not just a single-note story (heh, pun totally intended). Martinez layers the drama, so that there are many different elements at work in these characters’ lives — each one written believably, and each one perfectly executed. And nor are the characters “one note” … Martinez has created whole back stories for each individual, and when combined, they breathe fresh life into the context of her story. Carmen and Jeremy have a lot going on — but so do the others in their lives, and each character brings something different and critical to the story.

I wish we got to learn a bit more about the impact that the fallout of the book’s climax had on certain secondary characters, but overall, the ending was superb — open-ended, yet conclusive enough to leave you satisfied. It really was just wonderful.

Oh, and that moment in the prologue when Carmen’s about to drop her $1.2 million Stradivarius violin off a hotel balcony? My. Heart. Stopped. Don’t do it!!!!!!! Read for yourself to find out what happens.

Virtuosity is in stores today!


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