I grabbed the eGalley of this book 6 hours before it run out. It didn't need 6 hours. I read the prologue and was hooked. It's so powerful and enthralling. You don't know what happened but a girl in an evening gown is so desperate and heart-broken that she is about to let her 1-million dollar Stradivarius violin fall 10+ floors down. What an entry to this story!
It was a strange kind of reading. I couldn't immediately connect to Carmen. I don't know if anyone who wasn't or still is a child prodigy can really relate. Carmen is home schooled, does concert tours and lives her life for playing her violin. She lives in this artistic micro cosmos, which is disconnected from the real world. Therefore she has very few people in her world she can rely on and interacts with. Jessica Martinez portraits these features perfectly and I began to understand Carmen though I, particularly in the first third of the book, didn't really like her. Her first few interactions which Jeremy, the other child prodigy in the Guarneri competition, are characterized by social awkwardness. Both Carmen and Jeremy are very strong characters, who especially in this circumstances, collide strongly. But at the same time they are very much alike. They love playing, they love the music and they share that almost nobody their age can understand this.
They start to write each other emails. First, to impress and insult each other. But then they are both fascinated by each other and start meeting on their own. I enjoyed very much how they got to know each other better. They shared experiences. At the same time the competition is going on which makes their interaction sometimes strained. Since a very bad concert experience Carmen takes anti-anxiety medication before a performance. They make her calm, but also kind of numb and she loses her connection to the music. Indirectly Jeremy helps her with this issue. I loved how they supported each other. Not always knowingly but nevertheless. They fall in love and this is written so perceptively and insightful that I became really mushy inside.
Then an unexpected event happened during the competition, which will separate Jeremy and Carmen and will have major impact on their future as musicians. Shortly afterwards Carmen gains some informations which will change everyone's life, especially hers, and she has to make a very, very difficult decision. During this part of the book you could literally feel how much Carmen grew up and developed during the story. I was proud of her and wouldn't wish even my worst enemy the moral dilemma she had to face. This part of the book was particularly tantalizing and I was suffering with Jeremy and Carmen and couldn't put the book down for even short breaks.
So a few words about the ending. I was thinking about this for a few days after reading the book. I felt very unsettled, which shows what a deep impact this story made on me. In theory the end was perfect, but for me it was also painful in a way that I felt that Carmen lost too much. And though there is closure, the end felt unbalanced. As if some people gained to much and some gave to much. But I guess that's life and I have to give praise to the author for writing in this realistic style. Overall this was an amazing contemporary read, which gives you an understanding of the world of classical music, but most importantly this book has two fascinating main characters and a powerful plot.
*** ARC courtesy of Simon&Schuster ***