Friday, November 11, 2011

Ingenue Book Review

Author: Jillian Larkin. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385740364.
Check out my review for the first novel in this series, Vixen, if you haven't already read it!:

Annotation:  Gloria Carmody and Jerome Johnson have fled Chicago and are now struggling to make ends meet in 1920s New York City. Lorraine Dyer, Clara Knowles and Jerome’s sister, Vera, also find themselves in New York’s world of gangsters, speakeasies and jazz.
Personal thoughts:  I enjoyed the first novel in the series very much, but found myself liking Ingenue even more after the first few chapters. Where the first book had its moments of lag, the plot of Ingenue rolled forward like a freight train for most of the story. I liked the addition of Vera as one of the narrators, although it was, at times, a bit confusing since the novel was told from four different perspectives. Other than having to double-check who I was reading about from time to time, I found Ingenue to be a very satisfying second installment in a fun series! I’m looking forward to the release of Diva.    
Plot summary: Picking up right where the previous novel, Vixen, left off, eighteen-year-old Gloria Carmody finds herself struggling to make ends meet in New York City with the talented piano player, Jerome Johnson, she left Chicago to be with.  After being forced to kill one of the associates of Chicago mobster, Carlito Macharelli, in self-defense, Gloria and Jerome are being extra cautious to avoid the eventual retribution that they know is coming their way. In the meantime, Gloria’s best friend turned enemy, Lorraine Dyer, is also living in New York and is working for none other than Macharelli in one of his gin joints, the Opera House. Lorraine promised Carlito that she would help him locate Gloria and Jerome, getting her revenge for the humiliation that Gloria put her through back in Chicago. Gloria’s cousin, Clara Knowles, and her now boyfriend, Marcus Eastman, are also living in New York before Marcus begins college in the fall. Clara is trying desperately to convince Marcus that she has given up the flapper-lifestyle, but finds herself back in the world of liquor, jazz and parties when she lands a job as a reporter for an up-and-coming New York magazine. Vera Johnson, Jerome’s sister, and Evan, one of Jerome’s former Chicago bandmates, have also travelled to the Big Apple hoping to find Jerome and warn him that he and Gloria’s fears are not unfounded: a dangerous assassin has been hired to find the pair, and Vera doesn’t want to imagine what their fates will be when their lives in Chicago finally catch up with them.
Review:  Like the first novel in Larkin’s Flappers series, Ingenue is told in alternating voices, this time with Vera contributing to the story along with Vixen’s Gloria, Lorraine and Clara. Those who have not read the previous novel beware: the storyline of Ingenue is quite complex and would make little to no sense if the characters were not already firmly established in the first installment. Fans of Vixen, however, will find the four girls’ adventures in Ingenue to be as enjoyable, if not more so, than the previous novel.  Gloria, Lorraine and Clara have shed any of the “debutante” pretense that made up so much of the plot of Vixen, leaving three fearless flappers in their place. Vera also makes an interesting addition to the mix, giving Larkin the opportunity to explore even more of the social inequalities between blacks and whites in the early 20th century. Gloria and Jerome’s trouble romance is, of course, the most stark example of society’s segregation in the 1920s, but other, more subtle parts of the novel will definitely resonate with readers who are attune to these struggles. Another major theme of the story is the role of women during the time period. Clara finds herself wanting to pursue a career in journalism, but discovers that she might be limited to petty gossip columns, the more serious stories being left to the men. The mobster/speakeasy/revenge parts of the novel are what move it along, but it is Larkin’s attention to the realities of the 1920s that really makes Ingenue shine as an exciting historical fiction read for young adults. The third novel, Diva, is set to be released in 2012.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Vixen by Jillian Larkin (first installment in series) and Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen.       
Themes:  1920s, flappers, speakeasies, gangsters, interracial relationships, revenge, racism, role of women.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from  
Series Information: Second installment in The Flappers series. First novel, Vixen (2011), third novel, Diva, set to be released in 2012.  
Discussion questions: 
- What setting did you like better: Chicago in Vixen or New York City in Ingenue? Why?
- Did you like the addition of Vera as a narrator in the novel? Why or why not?
- How do you think the characters changed between Vixen and Ingenue? Who changed the most? The least?
-Why do you think race was such an issue in the early 20th century? Do you think it still is?
- Do you think that Gloria and Jerome would be accepted in today’s society?

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