Thursday, December 30, 2010
Vixen by Jillian Larkin
Popular YA novelist Anna Godberson recently debuted her new series, Bright Young Things, which takes place in the twenties; HBO just aired the first season of its new blockbuster series Boardwalk Empire, which explores the Prohibition era in Atlantic City (sure, this is more of an adult show, but it's still been bouncing around in my head). So, by the time I got to Vixen, my brain was a little saturated with the twenties. I was hoping for a new approach, but instead found something that read like a poor clone of Godberson's Bright Young Things crossed with her Luxe series -basically, think a 1920's Gossip Girl. While there's nothing wrong with that, I felt like I had read it all before, and, sadly, it has been done better.
Vixen takes place in Prohibition-era Chicago, amid the tension between the crazy world of boys, booze and jazz (basically, the flappers) and polite, law-abiding society. Readers meet three young women, each with their own story and their own ties to the flapper world. Gloria, a repressed society girl who is engaged to the most eligible bachelor in Chicago, craves the rebellious flapper lifestyle; Clara, Gloria's cousin from New York who isn't as "country" as she lets on; and Lorraine, Gloria's social-climbing best friend who will do anything to get out of Gloria's shadow.
Filled with plenty of booze and jazz, Vixen offers a semi-interesting look into the world of these Chicago socialites, complete with delicious scandals, back-stabbing plots, dark pasts and, of course, money. Though the novel pulls from a rich period, it's obvious that author Jillian Larkin was more interested in thoroughly portraying flapper culture more than doing anything else in the book. While this was absolutely fascinating, she seemed to neglect doing virtually any other historical research, which made the history (and the world) seem incredibly flimsy at times (not to mention the descriptions are somewhat weak).
Thankfully, the characters were able to save it somewhat, though the male characters were incredibly flat when compared with the three female leads. While I don't have a problem with this, it made me wish that the characters were a little more even, and didn't overshadow one another so much. Speaking of uneven, let's talk about the plot. I don't think it's bad by any means, but it needs some work. The action slows to a crawl at several points in the middle (and even near the beginning), but picks us so much at the end that I couldn't put the book down for the final 50-ish pages.
While Vixen wasn't a complete disappointment, it's enviable that it is going to be compared with Godberson's Bright Young Things (and have shades of Boardwalk Empire). If this book had come out at a different time, I may have enjoyed it more, but instead spent far too long wishing I could read the next book in Godberson's series, which handles virtually the same themes, but better. Now, Vixen isn't a bad debut novel, in fact, I think that Larkin could become an incredible writer with subsequent books, but she's not there yet.