Title: Virtuosity (amazon/goodreads)
Author: Jessica Martinez
Expected publication: October 18th 2011 by Simon Pulse
Summary: "Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?
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...."
First line: "The balcony felt cold under my cheek."
Thoughts: Virtuosity is a wonderfully told novel, that gives reader's a glimpse into the rigorous world of competitive classical music. What sets this book apart from others, however, is the strong, emotional pull you'll feel towards each of the characters. It's not just a book about music and competition, it's also about falling in love for the first time and doing the right thing, even if it means letting go of your dreams.
Carmen is the lead contender in the Guarneri competition. She's been training for this competition as long as she can remember, and when you're expected to win, a certain level of stress is bound to follow. With that said, since Carmen's first performance, she has been taking anti-anxiety drugs to help her perform. They calm her, but in doing so, she doesn't feel a thing.
Then, along comes Jeremy. Sarcastic, arrogant Jeremy, who teases Carmen and even accuses her of stalking him/checking out the competition (even though she kind of was). And isn't it funny how someone can fall in love with the one person they're not suppose to? Jeremy is Carmen's biggest competition and after hearing him rehearse, she knows he's going to give her a run for her money. And the scariest part? Carmen doesn't know this yet, but her mother (the one who pushes her constantly, and even encourages her to take the anti-anxiety medication) will do anything to make sure Carmen wins. So, in the end, is Carmen in this for herself or for her mother?
What I loved about this book is the raw, deep emotions. Carmen is really struggling with what she thinks she wants, and what her mother wants for her. I've noticed that in a lot of books that focus around competitive dancing, music, etc, the person tends to just give up what they once loved doing. I never understood that. If you've worked hard at it and at one point loved it, how can you let it go so easily? In Virtuosity's case, even though you don't know what will happen and what Carmen will do, you also know that she's too passionate about playing the violin to let it go. Whether or not she wins is a different story.
I loved how strongly Carmen felt towards her medication. She always knew there was something wrong in taking it, but struggles with what her head and heart are telling her. There's just so much that happens in this book that goes beyond the competition. Needless to say, if you're a fan of emotional reads, you'll enjoy this one.
Oh, but Carmen's mother! That woman is infuriating! Carmen's mom is the type of mom that lives her dreams vicariously through her daughter. It's so frustrating because you can't tell whether or not her mom truly cares about her. It's all about the competition and all about winning, regardless of how it's affecting Carmen. And the secrets! Holy moly, the secrets her mother is keeping from Carmen. I will not tell you what they are for spoilers sake, but they are horrible in the best kind of way!
And then there's Jeremy. What is it about a cocky guy that makes him so irresistible? Maybe it's because deep down, you know there's a sweetness to him? Every excursion between Carmen and Jeremy, even if they were embarrassing or humiliating, was just amazing. It's not hard to fall in love with Jeremy. In a way, it's inevitable. I loved how you can tell he truly cared about Carmen and wants the best for her, but is also conflicted because he wants to win the Guarneri so badly. They're both going through the same emotional roller coaster, so it's like experiencing the whole thing in two-folds.
Overall, , Virtuosity is one of those books, even if you've never played an instrument in your life, you can easily fall in love with. If you have pursued music, whether in band, piano or orchestra, you'll relate to what Carmen is going through. Though, I must say, the Guarneri is way more exhilarating and intense than any solo/ensemble or region band competition (yes, I use to play the french horn!). For fans of Courtney Summers, Holly Cupala, and YA contemporary literature in general, you'll want to read Virtuosity immediately. But please, make sure you have time to finish it in one sitting. Believe me, once you start, you won't be able to stop.