October 19, 2011

Virtuosity: A Panoramic Review

To fit with the photography theme, these are now titled "panoramic" reviews (but they use the same format as the "in a nutshell" reviews of before.)

Goodreads' description:
"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...."
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

My reaction: I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the music performance industry; I thought the portrayal rang quite true from everything I've heard about it.  The main characters Carmen and Jeremy were both likeable and easy to relate to, despite the fact that unlike them I have never participated in any major music competitions. Carmen may be innocent and naive, but it's believable, because she's intelligent too. We see her mature throughout the novel and end up making some decisions I had to really respect. And the writing style was easy to get into and smooth throughout.

I'm not typically a big fan of the open ending, but I thought it kind of worked for this book — we're given two possibilities of Carmen's future, and they're both hopeful. In particular, I thought the open ending when it came to resolution with Carmen's mom was realistic; I was glad to see it didn't get sappy or sugar-coated. Their relationship is one filled with tension, due mainly to Diana's attempt to live vicariously through Carmen's ascent as a performer — a role seen often for parents of musicians who are, or were, musically talented themselves, but in the case of Virtuosity, it's done well. It was refreshing to see that Martinez does not back down from making the mother pushy and controlling, even to the very end.

Best aspect: The twist that the competitive angle put on Carmen and Jeremy's relationship. It's a realistic way of keeping them apart and putting up a barrier without involving a tired old love triangle like we see so often these days. This 'I-like-him-but-I-can't-trust-him' mentality added a whole other layer to their romance.

If I could change something... Judging from the back cover, I expected the Inderal and Carmen's addiction to play a larger role in the storyline than they actually did. It seemed more like they were added in there to show that some musicians do go through these situations, rather than as a natural part of Carmen's journey. I wasn't too sure about how certain aspects of the addiction were handled, as well. (Spoiler, highlight to read: I thought that the withdrawal symptoms Carmen exhibits when she goes off the drug should have been more severe and lasted longer, given that she stopped cold-turkey and had been on Inderal for quite some time by that point.)

In five words or less: entertaining and enlightening

Read if you liked: The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer-Wolff, Mountain Solo by Jeanette Ingold

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.


  1. I would have guessed that the addiction would be a large part of the book as well. I'm glad that the author avoided the over-used love triangle. This one seems interesting. I think I'll pick it up. Thanks for the review, Danya!

  2. I just read Virtuosity last night. It was a great debut novel, even if it wasn't what I completely expected too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the novel, Danya!

  3. I thought this book was amazing! I hadn't really heard much about the addiction before the novel, but I did like that they picked a drug that (supposedly) doesn't have any physical dependency, because then it was more of a mental state... AND it ties in to the whole mom thing, which is all... You know.

    That's what killed me more than anything else, is the way that, even in the beginning, her mom just really doesn't seem to believe in her. Telling her after ONE bout of stage fright that she's never going to be good enough on her own? Very sad.

    But all in all, I thought this book was marvelous. LOVED so much about it! :)


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