In Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Carmen Bianchi, is a seventeen-year-old violin virtuoso carrying the weight of a Grammy award-winning career and the failed dreams of her musician mother into the fiercest competition of her life. Though she is favored to win the prestigious Guarneri prize Carmen is still curious about her main competition, Jeremy, a boy her age who is also a virtuouso violinist. Carmen seeks Jeremy out after one of his rehearsals, anxious to compare her own asessment of his talents to her mother’s. Though their first meeting is contentious, the two quickly become an item, which presents a whole other host of problems with respect to her feelings about her own talent, her controlling mother, the competition and her feelings for Jeremy.
Virtuosity was an easy book to read because Martinez does an excellent job at portraying Carmen as someone who is a competitive player in the violin world (which doesn’t come without heavy cost), while dealing with an extremely regimented (and stressful) practice with an old Ukrainian taskmaster. She struggles to master her stage fright, complex relationship with her mother, and tries to manage falling in love for the first time. It was especially interesting to see the author’s use of performance anxiety and beta blockers within the storyline; and how Carmen and her mom dealt with its use.
Though Virtuosity is basically a coming-of-age story and a love story between two teenage virtuosos at the top of their game, the narrative also holds surprises. Carmen faces situations that force the personal growth that has been stunted by her violin lifestyle. Boy meets girl always has a twist, and I liked seeing how the ones that came up around her played out. People can often be hurtful when they have the best of intentions. Recommended.