Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vixen Book Review

Author: Jillian Larkin. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Ember. ISBN: 9780385740357.
Annotation:  It’s 1923 and anything goes for seventeen-year-old Gloria, her best friend Lorraine and her cousin Clara as they try to infiltrate Chicago’s underground scene of speakeasies, flappers, gangsters and Jazz.
Personal thoughts:  I am a very big fan of historical fiction, and Vixen had just the right mix of history and romance for me. The 1920s has never stood out as one of my favorite periods in history, but after reading this novel, I grew to like the world of flappers and speakeasies much more. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the alternating voices that Larkin used to tell the story. Each of the girls is very interesting, but switching between their perspectives kept the plot moving forward. I definitely look forward to reading Ingenue as soon as possible!
Plot summary: Told in alternating voices, three beautiful seventeen-year-olds navigate the tumultuous world of speakeasies, flappers, gangsters and jazz in 1923 Chicago. Caught in an engagement she’s not so sure about, Gloria Carmody can’t get the handsome and charismatic piano player from the Green Mill, Chicago’s most notorious speakeasy, off her mind. The problem with Jerome, however, is that he’s black, and Gloria’s upper-crust family, along with the rest of society, would never understand or accept her feelings for him. Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s best friend since childhood, is tired of being an afterthought in Gloria’s perfect existence, and especially wishes Gloria’s good friend, the dashing Marcus Eastman, would give her a moment’s notice. When Gloria’s cousin, Clara Knowles, arrives in town, Lorraine is even more concerned that Clara’s goody-goody ways will rub off on Gloria, making her even less likely to join Lorraine in Chicago’s speakeasy scene. What Gloria and Lorraine don’t know is that Clara is far from the virginal and modest girl she pretends to be, and is, in fact, escaping a whirlwind, and at times dangerous, existence as a flapper in New York City. As Gloria, Lorraine and Clara’s lives become more entwined, will they be able to survive in the world of gangsters, liquor and jazz?
Review: This first installment in the Flappers series acts as a combination between a historical fiction and romance novel, resulting in a very engaging and pleasing plot and set of characters.  It is obvious, as well as stated in her jacket bio, that the author is a very big fan of the 1920s. The attention to detail in describing the setting, clothing, hairstyles, society, and even the slang of the period really stands out. This is a setting not often used in young adult novels, and one that lends itself really well to creating an interesting story. Larkin also does an excellent job of creating interesting leading ladies in Gloria, Lorraine and Clara. There are certainly elements in each character that readers, especially teen girls, will be able to identify with. The method of telling the story, in alternating voices between the three, makes the novel very fresh and allows for different perspectives on the events of the story, as well as the time period. This is certainly a very promising start to a series with a great deal of potential. The recently released second installment, Ingenue, continues to stories of Gloria, Lorraine and Clara, and will, hopefully, prove to be just as enjoyable.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin (second installment in series) and Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen.
Themes:  1920s, flappers, speakeasies, gangsters, interracial relationships, friendships.      
Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Booklist.  
Series Information: First installment in Flappers series by Jillian Larkin, second book, Ingenue, released in August 2011.     
Discussion questions:
- How much did you know about the 1920s before reading Vixen? Research the period and determine if you think the book is historically accurate.
- What reasons do you think Gloria had for trying to avoid a relationship with Jerome? Do you think there are still prejudices in society with interracial relationships? Why or why not?
- Who was your favorite of the three leading ladies? Why?
- Which of the characters did you identify the most with?
- Do you think that Gloria, Clara and Lorraine are all protagonists? Could any of them be described as antagonists? Why?

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