Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Vixen-The Flappers by Lila Fine aka Jillian Larkin

Vixen is a young adult book with a new edge. It’s set in the Roaring Twenties when prohibition was in full swing and hidden speakeasies dotted the landscape; gangsters grew in prominence and teenagers had an exciting and pulse-pumping outlet to get into trouble.
The flapper lifestyle, the freedom and excitement of it, it is sure to draw in its share of young girls with the promise of something extraordinary. The three protagonists of this story get caught up in it with decidedly mixed results.
Gloria Carmody, seventeen, is engaged to be married to the handsome, but boring stuffed shirt Sebastian Grey. They are both from prominent Chicago families and Gloria is hardly the sort of girl that would do anything to embarrass them—unless you count sneaking into illegal drinking establishments, teetering on the edge of an interracial affair and possibly making waves with the Jazz set.
When Gloria’s cousin, Clara Knowles comes to town, her mission is to make herself useful.  She’s supposed ensure that Gloria stays on the straight and narrow path toward wedded bliss. There’s just one problem. Clara may be a teenager herself, but she’s been living a lifestyle that would turn Chicago high-society on it’s ear and she has to keep it a secret at all costs.

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s best friend is the wildcard in the bunch. She’s rich, but neglected. Her most secure relationship—that as childhood friend of Gloria, is veering off track as Gloria pursues other interests.  In spite of her best efforts, “Raine” just can’t get what she wants. Her envy is about to cause catastrophic results.
There’s a debate in the world of writing about the need for a prologue. Vixen has one, but it wasn’t necessary.  It had an important little clue, but because it was without context, one could not recognize it’s importance and it was even forgotten as the story moved forward.
Initially and perhaps because of the eye-catching girl on the cover, it appears that the story is about one character, Gloria Carmody, but the reader soon realizes that it is the story of the three girls noted above in equal measure. Each girl is the focus of a chapter in chronological fashion and it was a good way to keep track of each character’s story arc.
The story had a mature, film noir quality to it. It didn’t have the common young adult sensibility. It’s easy to forget you’re reading about teenagers. The author seemed to realize this, as one would see a reference to the character’s age or a mention of them as teenagers every now and again.  Not a bad idea.
The story starts right in the midst of action and it took time to get oriented to what was happening, but once this was accomplished, things took off at breakneck speed. Vixen is an action-packed, exciting read. It is chocked full of adventure, intrigue and mystery.  Larkin shows real skill in weaving the lives and conflicting goals of the characters into an engaging and page-turning story.
Vixen is the first book of a series. It concluded on a surprising twist that will not be expected. It leaves the reader anticipating the continuation of an exciting story in the next installment, Ingenue, which releases in the summer of 2011.

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