Book: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin (Book #2 in the Flappers series)
Publisher/Year: Random House August 2011
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
*Reading this review without reading Vixen may be a bad idea. Read my review of Vixen to see if this series might be for you!*
Ingenue is the second installment in the Flappers series by Jillian Larkin. Ingenue drops us off a few months out from where Vixen ended with a MAJOR bang. Told again from alternating perspectives, with the addition of Jerome’s sister Vera, we see what life is like for the characters in New York City where the drama seems to follow them as all the unresolved pieces from Vixen haunt them. We’ve got relationship issues, revenge, glamour, scandal and more…with a lot of flappers, gangsters and guns thrown in the mix.
I’m going to get the negative out of the way first and be honest and say that Ingenue wasn’t the experience that Vixen was for me. I just found Vixen to be so much better as a whole — the intrigue, the characters and the romance. I think the main reason for my slight disappointment with Ingenue has to do with the characters and a lot of contrived coincidences and chance happenings. I just found it to be annoying that SOMEHOW they all end up in New York, they all have run-ins (or ALMOST) run-ins with each other or know somebody who saw so and so. I just remember reading it and being bothered by that. Some of the things just seemed a little bit forced. I think forced is maybe to harsh for how I really feel about it but I can’t really explain it any other way.
My second issue is with the characters themselves. I loved (and hated!) some of these characters very passionately in Vixen and felt I got a really good sense of who these characters were and why they acted the way they did but I felt like they really fell by the wayside in Ingenue. Lorraine was her usual bitchface self but her evilness was WAY more than it ever was. I know she was mad about what happened at home but JEEZ…I can’t tell if she is just SO stupid to realize what being in cohorts with gangsters is going to bring her and others involved or if she just is bipolar and when she feels hatred that she acts rashly and then has compassion when she realizes she is a big moron. I think my biggest qualm came with Clara. Clara just wasn’t the Clara that we had come to know and who had grown so much in Vixen. I can’t believe that in her return to New York she’d become as annoying as Lorraine and become such a biznatch. I got confused about this whole “My dream is to be a writer” thing that made her so cutthroat and not at all the caring Clara that she was..especially towards Gloria. I just personally found it hard to believe that she changed that much and that quickly over something so trivial that had we had never really known to be her passion (or maybe I just don’t remember her as that…). I still cared for Gloria but even she was being a bit selfish and annoying..although in her case I could see that a huge change in lifestyle could that for her. Sure, I do still feel like this characters are very vivid and real but I didn’t feel like they were being true to how we knew they were.
What didn’t disappoint was the action. This time there was even more flapper glitz, more gangsters and more heart pounding scenes that keep you clutching the book fiercely. I was just absolutely racing through this book and I thought it was paced really well. It wasn’t too much action and high drama but we also got a good sense on how the murder at the end of Vixen affected each one of them, what challenges they faced in their transitions from Chicago and New York and the fear that pulsed through them as they are entangled in web of danger and connections to the gangsters and mobsters. The ending left me beyond craving the next book in the series because the desire to know what happened is FIERCE. It leaves you in a place that sets up something undoubtedly mindblowing in the next book.
What also is really wonderfully done, as is the case in of Vixen as well, is the way Larkin is able to transport you back to an era that I love and allow you to see the glamour of it all but also some of the grittiness that happened in some of these cities and in the speakeasies. We get to see the underbelly of society in the secretive and mysterious speakeasies and the gangsters, flappers and entertainers that inhabit that scene, the violent and cutthroat nature of these gangsters and the secret life of some of the high society. I can so clearly feel the desires to “make it” and the feeling that there are endless possibilities in a city like New York in this time. I thought Larkin really portrayed just how different their lives were now. The rich, high society lives that Lorraine and Gloria had been used is such a contrast to where they are now. This isn’t just little girl fun that they are getting themselves into while they dressed up like flappers in Vixen. They are now each living it to some degree or another. The fear of getting caught by your mother to sneak out to a speakeasy is contrasted with the fear of every day wondering what a knock at the door means.
The Final Thought: This series has an undeniable allure for readers like me – I love the flappers, I love the 20’s, the action, the intriguing characters and the chance to get a little taste of history. While Ingenue wasn’t as stellar as Vixen was for me, I still enjoyed this next installment as it still delivers with heart pounding action and writing that is able to make you feel every dark speakeasy and every soulful song belted out from someone who has learned about pain. I will most certainly be wanting to get my grubby hands on the next installment of this series because I can’t get enough of it. Highly recommended for lovers of YA Historical Fiction especially set in the 1920’s. Also, high fives to mentions of iconic people of the 20’s — singers and writers alike!