Let’s just start out with– hello, my name is Jamie and I am obsessed with the 1920’s and flappers and I will read anything related to said obsessions. Seriously. I once was a flapper for Halloween. I just love the flapper fashion, the literature that arose from the 1920’s, the jazz, the transition into the modern culture, the progress in woman’s suffrage movement, the mobsters, the speakeasys..it is all just so exciting to me! I just love reading and watching movies set during this time. Anyways, once I saw this book I just KNEW I had to pick it up.
Vixen tells the story of three girls who are in their late teens during the Roaring Twenties in the exciting city of Chicago. Each chapter alternates between Gloria, Clara and Lorraine. Gloria, engaged to a powerful man and comes from a family that is very much against the underground world of the speakeasys and flappers, is enthralled with the life she can’t have and begins to explore the seemingly glamorous lives of the flappers but discovers that it isn’t always what it seems. Clara, Gloria’s cousin who is from the country and who has come to live with Clara’s family, seems like a clueless girl from the country but she has secret past that she is trying to hide that is in danger of being brought into the open. Lorraine, Clara’s best friend, is sick of being second to Clara–in beauty, attention and with the boys– and she is ready to have all eyes on her– no matter what the cost is and nobody will get in her way.
Vixen has it all — romance, glitz and glamour, catty girls, mobsters, secrets, and suspense, — and is set in one of those most interesting and alluring time periods in America. There is an attempt to delve into more substantial issues like friendship, loyalty, the suppression of women, racial and societal expectations but it’s overall just a fun-ish kind of read. This reminded me of Gossip Girl set in the 1920’s with the high society, secrets, backstabbing and shocking public revelations. And I totally was picturing the episode of Gossip Girl where Chuck opened the speakeasy and they were all in flapper-like costumes. Larkin nailed it. At some points I felt like if I closed my eyes, I’d be transported into some dark speakeasy, filled with smoke and booze, dancing with glamorous flappers and gangsters with pin-striped suits. I could hear that jazz music playing and feel the excitement of being rebellious and sexy in my fringed dress, headband and bobbed hair cut.
There were some interesting characters in this book. Clara was my favorite — she was smart, despite some obvious bad choices in her past, and I thought she was interesting and was the shining star for me. I did appreciate some of the dimensions we started to see in Gloria and I started to really appreciate her. At some times I felt like Gloria and Lorraine were a bit cliched and predictable but the storyline and the setting made up for what they were sometimes lacking for me. The storyline was well crafted and I kept wanting to find out what happened. This a pretty plot-driven novel.
My one gripe with this book is that I felt like the author went a little bit overboard with the lingo of the time period and she didn’t need to because she really had me convinced of the time period with how she built their world. All these phrases and slang were dropped into the story and it felt like a like a kid who learned a set of vocabulary words and tried to keep impressing people with packing them into sentences. It just didn’t flow all the time and seemed awkward. The overuse of all the lingo was distracting and it was really unfortunate because she already set such an authentic scene for the reader.
I will note that this might be inappropriate for some younger readers — lots of booze, smoking and it’s pretty sexy. I thought it was tasteful but definitely a little more mature than some YA lit geared for younger readers.
My Final Thought: Vixen is a sexy and intriguing debut that captures the excitement of an era and an underground lifestyle that is full of glamour, grit and danger. It is edgy and provocative without being trashy. It is a promising primer, for older teens (and YA lovers of all ages), into a period of time that should be explored more in YA historical fiction. Is it very thought-provoking? Nah, not really, but it was such a quick and fun read. I cannot WAIT for the second book to come out as the ending was quite exciting and ends with quite the bang..literally. In the meantime, I’ll be trying Bright Young Things which is also set in the 20’s and seems to be about flappers.
This short trailer is amazing and I think you’ll be intrigued if I haven’t convinced you:
Disclosure: I won this from the publisher.