The book opens with the death of a teenaged girl, but her family does not yet know it. Marylin and James are raising Lydia, Nath, and Hannah, and all seems like a normal school day in the 1970's...until the family realizes Lydia is missing. What? Lydia? Where could she have gone? She's dead? Who killed her? Her death sets chaos and conflict that will threaten to tear the family apart. Old wounds, dark secrets and fragile bonds all threaten to come to the surface.
Soon we find that it's not Lydia's death that's not to solve. It's the problems she left behind. Marilyn resents the life that she has led, feeling like she missed the opportunity to apply to become a doctor after sexist and misogynist treatment at Harvard. James flings himself into an affair. Nath thinks he knows who killed his sister. And so on.
As other reviews have pointed out, Ng is a gifted writer. The opening of the book certainly had me hooked. But I was disappointed to see that the author seemed to feel it was not Lydia's death that needed solving. The characters seem one-dimensional and not particularly likeable. Which in itself is not a problem, but Ng's writing was unable to make me care about the characters. I wanted to know who or what killed Lydia. I wasn't interested in the angst surrounding her death, especially when it became the main focus.
I felt the author perhaps had an ax to grind. Like another reviewer on Amazon.com, I found it just a tad unbelievable that most, if not all interactions with other people regarding James' and the children's ethnicity being racist. I get it's the 1970's and it may have been a factor in Lydia's death, but it struck me as just a mite unbelievable.
I suppose the author was trying to play the story straight: one of the theories that the police have about Lydia's death is proven correct later on in the novel. I could tell James was going to have an affair almost immediately. Etc. But the slight twist that ultimately leads to her death was contrived and seemed like one last attempt to create a surprise at the end of the book.
Not worth the hype. Very disappointed after the beginning. So glad I got it from the library and not as a purchase!!
Actual score 2.75
When I picked up this ebook, I thought I would in love with it. The title is so cute and the brown skinned girl on the cover is even cuter! I thought the book would be about a girl discovering her unknown culture from being a product of a Interracial union(She was half Indian and half white). However I can't help but have been a little disappointed by the way culture was handled in the book.
The story centers around Abby Spencer, a 13 year old girl who's never known her father but after a near deadly allergic reaction to coconut, she's forced to learn about her father's medical history and reach out the the father she's never know. What she doesn't plan is that he's a big Bollywood movie star!
Now I think the concept of this book is really cute. Imagine finding out your dad is a Bollywood movie star! Sick, right? Unfortunately i had a few problems with the book that maybe other readers never make themselves aware of.
I think the biggest problem I had was her mother told her nothing about her Dad or his culture. I can understand that she was a little upset by the situation, She may or may not have still had feelings for him; but that isn't an excuse to deny someone access to their other culture. Even if you know nothing about it, when you have bi-racial children, at some point you have to start talking about these things because it may be something the child struggles with in the future.
It just seemed as though she didn't think of the father of her child's heritage was important enough to learn about it. She just saw him as "Exotic". I hate the word exotic to describe POC, it just makes POC feel as though we can't be universally relatable. Maybe i feel this way because my boyfriend is bi-racial and he has a deep sense of both cultures(Haitian and Colombian). He didn't grow up with both parents living in the same house but he took the time to learn about the culture he wasn't always surrounded with. I would have liked Abby's mom if she would have put some kind of effort into discovering Abby's culture with her. Instead, she chose not to worry herself with it until Abby has this life threatening experience. But as far as Abby's dad, her really stepped up! I 'm glad she didn't make him some deadbeat dad!
Also because Abby pretty much grew up in a small community where almost everyone was in essence white and privileged, seeing how people in India lived was somewhat....unmoving for her. I guess privileged people don't have these conversations with their children. My family is from Cuba, so I can't remember a moment where I wasn't reminded that I was more fortunate than some people around the world. Yea, i get it. It's a culture shock, but these are all things i learned at such a young age. I thought her mom could have been a better teacher in terms of teaching her about what goes on beyond her perfect little world.
Abby's racial Identity was something I had issues with as well.She didn't begin considering herself bi-racial until the end of the book, which has lead me to believe she's looks "white enough" to not have been bothered with the "What are you" questions. Maybe the fact that she was bi racial but didn't identify with it until the end of the book really bothered me.
Throughout the book I couldn't help feeling like her friend, Priya, should have been the main character. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if Priya had been the main character, taken out the Bi-Racial aspect of the book and center around Priya being the product of an unplanned teen pregnancy. Being raised by a single Indian mom(which is almost unheard of) in the USA and finding out her dad is a Bollywood actor! To me perhaps that would have been more interesting.
I think the most redeemable characters in the book were Shiva, a person who worked for her dad's family, her grandmother, Tara and her love interest Shaan. I wish she would have described her love interest more. I get that he was cute but it always seems as though authors have no problem describing characters of European descent but POC get the brief, boring descriptions, if at all.
Overall, I think the book is cute but there are better coming of age stories featuring young girls with Indian ancestry.
Provided by Netgalley for an honest review.
I can’t remember the last time I loved a book that made me so so angry! Virtuosity did it for me. I must say I experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions. There were moments I felt happy and mesmerised and others where I felt sad and furious. Martinez writes beautifully and knows how to surprise her readers, which I already said about her second book, The Space Between Us. They are moving stories with beautiful prose and lots of surprises. The characters came alive and I really felt like they were next to me, telling me their stories. It's no surprise then that I am looking forward to reading her third book, The Vow. I have it sitting on my desk, lined up to be read in the coming month.
Now, back to Virtuosity. I could just rave about it and go on and on about how much I loved it. But that's not going to help much in explaining why. As I said, the prose was amazing. It was well thought out, lyrical when it came to speaking about music but also very well-balanced with humour.
Iron fists, it turned out, come in all shapes and sizes. This one had a French manicure.
Carmen was a strong character who knew what she wanted and that was to win the Guarneri competition. The one person who could just as easily tear it away from her was Jeremy. It didn't help when the two started to get involved with one another. Yet no matter how smitten she was with him, her goal was never far from her mind, so her adoration was mixed with repulsion. And that was what made me believe her. Years she toiled at perfecting the violin. Wanting to become the best violinist in the world also was what allowed her to slip into drug abuse. She became dependent on Indernal to take care of her nerves.
Virtuosity thus presents the journey of a world-class musician and how far she would be willing to go to be the top of the class. I thought the books was fascinating and there were twists I did not for the life of me expect. They stole my breath, left me steaming mad and when I closed that book at the end, I was positively sad that I didn't have more left to read.
Regardless of whether one knows music or not, Martinez made Virtuosity accessible to anyone. There's no excess of music jargon but there were enough musical references that those who do know know music will especially appreciate.
Carmen's mother Diane was also integral to the plot, not only as Carmen's mother but also as her agent. I definitely appreciated the presence of a prominent adult figure, even if I didn't agree with some of her methods. She gave Carmen everything she could possibly think of to help her to achieve greatness as a classical violinist. She also made provisions for a private tutor, so when Jeremy came into Carmen's life, there obviously was conflict because 1) he was someone who could distract her, and 2) he was the prime competition. Nonetheless, I liked that even though there were strong undertones of romance, music was what drove the plot first before the romance did. That is something that I particularly appreciate when it comes to contemporary fiction because I'm interested in the protagonist's life as a whole and their passions. If I'm in the mood for romance, I'll grab a book based on romance.
Oh and one other thing I liked was Carmen's reference to her Catholic faith, or lack thereof. Personal beliefs are something that aren't featured enough, so that added a plus point too in rounding up the character of Carmen, whose voice packed a whole lot of punch as well.
Clark offered to drive me with all the subtlety of a sumo wrestler in ballet shoes.
Besides the story itself, Virtuosity also offered a fair bit of thought. Jeremy brought up the difference in judging between female and male competitors. Females can be quiet and withdrawn which makes them look demure and sweet but the same attitude in males makes them look weak. Such interspersed commentary helped break up the varying parts of the book and slow things down a little for me to savour.
I wanted to protest. I was a musician, not an actress. Smiling on command made me feel like a pageant contestant, and I wasn't vying for Miss Illinois.
Such internal monologues showed the feisty side of Carmen who didn't just want to accept everything at face value. They also conveyed humour to lighten some of the heavier aspects of the plot. Also, to me, they portrayed the difficult side of Carmen's position, where she had to always put on an act to please others, no matter how much or how little she was into her performances. Overall, that is why I absolutely adored Virtuosity: the heart and soul that sprung out of it.
This review is also available on dudettereads.com.