Virtuosity. I'm not sure why, because I'm actually often drawn to stories featuring prodigies or people with highly regimented lifestyles due to their skills/abilities/life choices. Also, I like the title. But, the cover doesn't do a whole lot for me (it looks more paranormal than contemporary). Nothing wrong with it, but I will say that it would help if she was at least holding a violin. Then a galley floated my way, and so I went on the hunt for a few reliable reviews. And wouldn't you know, I found them (see links below). Enough of them to prod me to see for myself. I actually started Virtuosity right after finishing another book, somewhere in the vicinity of midnight, and I was absorbed quickly and deeply enough that I just read it straight through. I kind of feel like it's one of the ones best read that way, one of the ones that benefits largely from a quantity of undivided attention and a lack of breaks throughout.
Carmen Bianchi is a virtuoso. Her mother sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera at an unprecedentedly young age. All set to ride her stardom high, her career was cut short by an unexpected operation and an unexpected pregnancy. And so she transferred all of her drive, all her expectation, all her determination onto her daughter. And so Carmen eats, drinks, and breathes the violin. Her days are regimented to within an inch of her life, and her activities are sharply curtailed by her demanding schedule. With the most important competition of her life just a few short weeks away, she decides to scope out the competition. But it turns out Jeremy King isn't exactly the way she pictured him. And yet while his manner (both onstage and off) is about as far from her own as possible, he does share an unmatched understanding of what her life is like. Both that overwhelmingly innate love of music and the unparalleled isolation the lifestyle engenders. And so an alarmingly inconvenient friendship is struck up just at the moment when she needs to be the most focused and cutthroat she's ever been in her life.
I have never come anywhere even remotely in the vicinity of the kind of talent and dedication Carmen (and Jeremy) possess in this story. But I did grow up surrounded by music, and I played one instrument or another (or a few) nearly every day of my life from the time that I was four years old on. My mother taught me two of them. I was one of her many students, and so there was always the sound of music, the talk of music, and the practice and performance of music in the house. As a result, I was immediately drawn to Carmen's focus and love of everything that goes into the composition, the discipline, the appreciation, and the skill involved in her vocation. Unlike Carmen, however, I was always given the choice. Given options. And so my heart went out to her in sympathy for having none of those. I wanted her to explore the world outside. I wanted her to stand up to her mother and her horrible, horrible destructive influence. And at the same time I was fearful of the repercussions, fearful of what might be unintentionally but inevitably lost in the process. Beauty and fear make up the primary emotions of this novel, and I think the strength of it lies in those emotions and in the incredibly authentic way Jessica Martinez portrayed Carmen's life. I liked her. I liked Jeremy. Both of them so painfully solitary in their ways. And I really liked her mother, her stepfather, her tutor Helen, and her trollish instructor Yuri. I mean, I hated some of them, but I hated them right, you know? In fact, my heart was wrung several times throughout Virtuosity, and I was in the dark all the way up to the very end as to how things were going to turn out. I, for one, was very pleased with the "ending" Carmen got, and I'm definitely looking forward to Jessica Martinez's next offering.
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