Carmen Bianchi is not a typical teenager. She is a virtuoso violinist and her entire life revolves around the violin. She is preparing to compete in the most prestigious violin competition in the world. But at age seventeen, Carmen has always been a “good girl” and done exactly as told, until now. At the top there is nowhere to go but down. Will Carmen crash and burn? Will she find herself and uncover love in the most unlikely person? These questions are asked and answered in Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.
Carmen’s mother used to sing opera before a botched surgery scarred her vocal cords. She now functions as Carmen’s manager. Carmen has never known her father other than an occasional phone call or birthday/holiday card and gift. Her father’s parents are also mysteriously absent from her life until she becomes a violin virtuoso. Her grandparents then invest in her future by purchasing a Stradivarius violin for her to use. Carmen feels pulled and torn. She loves music and the violin but she has also become anxious about performing, especially after her disastrous performance in Japan. Of course her mother has the solution and promptly takes Carmen to a doctor for a prescription for pills to help with performance anxiety. The pills work, but Carmen finds herself taking more than one to ease her anxiety. The doctor says they aren’t addictive but she thinks he may be wrong.
Enter Carmen’s only true competition, a teenage male violin virtuoso. Jeremy King appears to be everything that Carmen isn’t, self-assured and totally independent. Jeremy and Carmen begin as enemies and become friends. Can they ever be more than friends? Needless to say Carmen’s mother feels that Jeremy is out to sabotage Carmen’s chances in the competition. It is a cruel thing for her to say but is it possible she’s right? And what is going on with the secretive phone calls in the middle of the night? Carmen knows that there is more going on than meets the eye with her mother. When she uncovers the truth, will she be able to take a stance for what is right? Is it possible that Jeremy only wants to throw her off-guard so he can win the competition?
Carmen goes through a lot of self-discovery in a very short period of time. This isn’t a story of typical teenage rebellion, nor is a typical coming-of-age story, although these are components to Virtuosity. Ms. Martinez has provided a heartfelt story about doing what is right no matter what and standing up for yourself despite the consequences. Carmen doesn’t want to disappoint her mother, her stepfather, her grandparents or her violin teacher, but she ultimately must not disappoint herself and stay true to her sense of integrity. Although Virtuosity is classified as a YA book, I feel it can be read and appreciated by readers of all ages.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”