Virtuosity. Say it. Go on, say it. I bet you’re wondering what it means. Virtuosity, according to the dictionary, is a word that means ‘a technical skill or fluency or style exhibited by a virtuoso.’ It’s one of those definitions that makes you say, ‘You can’t define a word with the word!’ (A virtuoso is a person who is highly skilled in music and/or other artistic pursuits, by the way. See, I’ve got you covered.) But I’m not here to define words. I’m here to deliver a review for Jessica Martinez’s stunning debut novel, Virtuosity.
Virtuosity kicks off with our main character, Carmen Bianchi, dangling her 1.2 million dollar violin (a Gibson Stradivarius) from a hotel balcony on a calm Chicago night. The night is calm for everyone but her, anyway. As far as she’s concerned, everything is a mess. Her performance pills have stopped working, she refuses to speak to her mother (or even go home), her career might as well be over, and on top of all that, she’s afraid that she’s lost her first love/enemy, Jeremy King. Confused? Don’t be. Chapter one backtracks and explains all.
Stalking. That’s what Carmen begins the first chapter doing. She and her tutor, Heidi, are sitting at a cafe, waiting for Jeremy King to finish with his violin rehearsal. Jeremy is just as skilled as Carmen, and that’s saying plenty. She’s just come off of a world tour after winning her first Grammy for her latest album. She believes that scoping out the competition will be a way to help her win the Guarneri, a prestigious violin competition that occurs once every four years. Carmen is shocked when she notices how … well … hot Jeremy has become. As she begins to focus less and less on the Guarneri and more and more on her competition (and her anxiety medication), she starts to think that maybe spying wasn’t the smartest idea.
Carmen’s mother, Diana, is a tragically beautiful ex-Opera singer who doubles as her daughter’s manager. She will go to any lengths to preserve Carmen’s career, even if that means bending the rules. Or, in the Guarneri’s case, breaking them in half.
Brilliantly set in Chicago, Virtuosity is a breathtaking peek into the world of competitive music. Carmen is a pleasantly realistic character that lives, breaths, and dreams violin. Reading this book made me want to pick up an instrument and learn to play—maybe minus the anxiety disorder Carmen suffers from. Virtuosity is hilarious, heartbreaking, and informative all at once. Miss Martinez’s entrance into the YA world will not go unnoticed. Though I greatly enjoyed both characterization and setting, I have to say that I didn’t quite fall into complete understanding of the music terminology and practices as soon as I would have liked. But for beautiful prose, I award Virtuosity three out of five jars of Nutella.
Marna is a current high school student on the East Coast. Reading, writing, and music are her LIFE, as well as her friends and family. She is in the process of writing about four different novels (because her attention span is insanely short) and she hopes to become published very soon!