Review: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

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!

Review On A Post-It
I own Bright Young Things as well but what are some other historical fiction novels set in the 1920’s (adult or YA)! Also, what is your favorite era to read about? Any good recs? Anyone as obsessed with the 1920’s as I am?!

Review: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

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 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.

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