Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Tags: YA, contemporary, music, anxiety, mother-daughter relationships


17-year-old Carmen Bianchi is a world-class violinist, with several CDs, Grammys, and international tours under her belt. But the biggest challenge is yet to come, in the form of the Guarneri Competition, the world’s most prestigious young violinists’ competition. Carmen wishes she could be confident of a win, but her biggest competition is Jeremy King: British, handsome, arrogant, astoundingly talented…and more attractive than she ever thought possible.

Carmen’s attraction to Jeremy is just one of her many pre-Guarneri problems. Her mother, Diana, is becoming insufferably interfering, and Carmen is also taking pills to alleviate her massive pre-performance anxiety. With so much pressure stacked up against her, can Carmen pull through, or will she end up crashing and burning?


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.

Similar Authors
Maria Padian (Jersey Tomatoes are the Best)
Nina de Gramont (Every Little Thing in the World)
Tara Kelly (Harmonic Feedback)

Cover discussion: I'm not a big fan. The retro coloring is, I think, overdramatic. In fact, until the publisher pitched it to me, I had no interest in reading this book because of its cover. Which would've been a shame.

Simon Pulse / Oct. 18, 2011 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $16.99

Received for review from publisher.


  1. I really enjoyed this book as well. It had a great plot. And I agree with you about the cover, I just don't like how it has nothing to do with the book.

  2. I actually like the cover, although I can see that it probably doesn't have much to do with the story. Great review!

  3. I like your review. I'm reading VIRTUOSITY right now and am enjoying it, but like you, I had no interest in reading it when I first received it. It wasn't until another blogger recommended it that I decided to go for it.

    I agree with you that her relationship with her mother is a great part of the book. I would probably have had more interest from the start if that was mentioned in the jacket copy.

  4. I agree the synopsis is misleading but definitely an awesome read.

  5. I didn't like the romance either while I also loved the conflict with the overbearing mother.

    I like the cover although I wish there was some musical element; I kept thinking this was more of a dance book.

  6. I agree with you about the cover, a total turn off, and the synopsis doesn't sound all that great .After reading your review, you persuaded me to want to check this book out.

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  8. Your review prompted me to read this -- and I wouldn't have because of the cheezy cover -- and I just raced through it. I really liked the dynamic between mother and daughter, as well as the warmth of the step-father. I was impressed by Martinez's clear prose and wonderful descriptions of performing and the world of classical music. The story just flowed.

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