Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Flappers: Vixen, by Jillian Larkin

I’m an eclectic reader who loves a good deal on a book.  I find a lot of my reads in the discount fiction section of Chapters, and I’ve always got my eyes peeled for a historical fiction, whether I’m familiar with the era or not.  That’s how I stumbled on my latest read, The Flappers: Vixen, by Jillian Larkin.  It wasn’t until I got the book home that I realized it was a teen-read; at least, that’s how the publisher classified it…  But still, I powered through and read it.

A word on plot: this book tells three stories, all set and intersecting in Prohibition-Era Chicago.  The first story is Gloria’s, a rich white girl from the debutant scene; Gloria is recently engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in town, but she longs for something more than the proscribed life unfolding in front of her.  The next story is Clara’s, Gloria’s cousin; Clara is from rural Pennsylvania, but ran away from home for the fast life in New York, only to be disgraced and sent to live with her aunt (Gloria’s mother) in Chicago.  The final story is Lorraine’s, Gloria’s best friend; from the same social strata as Gloria, Lorraine’s life is a little less decided, and she’s desperate to emulate the flapper girls who are making all the headlines.

I’m not exactly sure where I come down on this book…  The minutia of the plots are clearly designed for teens, and the resolution of them read a bit too much like ‘they lived happily ever after.’  What’s more, I couldn’t resolve the age of the characters with their actions.  Gloria and Lorraine are still in high school, but Gloria is engaged and both girls are already living as if they’re 20-somethings.  I’m not well-versed enough with the history of the era to know if this is plausible, but if feels odd reading about how Gloria was eating lunch in the cafeteria at school, then dinner with her fiancé at the swankiest restaurant in town… something felt disingenuous, and I’m not sure what it was.

The characters were, for the most part, really annoying.  I stopped hanging out with high schools girls years ago (thank god), but this book put me right back in the middle of that mess.  “I love him, but he doesn’t notice me!”  “I don’t love him, but I feel I can’t break up with him!”  “How can I best pull the wool over my parents’ eyes?”  Blah.  I’ve been through that shit-show, and never want to go back.  The characters, other than the three main girls (i.e. the men in their lives) are actually pretty well written and dynamic, but as they are only supporting characters, they’re presence isn’t weighty enough to temper the girls’ stories enough for me.

So, final verdict?  Even though I seem to trash the book, in the end, it’s a nice little step into the speak-easy world of Chicago.  If you’re interested in the era, then you could do worse in finding a read.  I take it from the title and where the book left off that this is a series, but I don’t think I’ll be hunting down the rest of the books.  If I stumble across them on the sale table at Chapters I might pick up the next one.  So, that’s not much of an endorsement, but they can’t all be winners.

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