Vixen by Jillian Larkin Review

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Title: Vixen
Author: Jillian Larkin
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Publish Date: December 14, 2010
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 421
Source: Personal Copy

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun...or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden...

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry...
Gloria is a good girl. Hailing from a newly-rich family in Chicago, Gloria doesn't stray from the rules, and she certainly doesn't deviate from the norm. That doesn't, however, mean that she doesn't want more. She dreams of the beautiful hair and dresses. She longs for the parties and the fun, but at the end of the day, she's engaged to be married, and that's certain to tame her forever. But there's a chance, just a chance, that Gloria can enjoy her hey-dey before the the big day. Is it worth it though to risk it all, and will Clara, Lorraine and Gloria's friendship survive the drama of the the roaring twenties?

Confession time...I'm a tidbit obsessed with the the 20's era. There's something about the carefree, mobster mentality of that time period; the glitz, the glam, the excessiveness and grandeur of it all that is daring, provocative and decidedly alluring. Vixen by author, Jillian Larkin, takes the heart of the 20's and spills it onto the pages, immersing you in a world that's both enticing and liberating. Rich, vivid and alive, Vixen brings you back to a time that's a party on the outside, but is teeming with an undercurrent of drama...just waiting to suck you in.

I've waited so very long to read this one, and I'll admit that it's in large part due to the size of the book. It's not the longest book I've ever read, but with an endless review queue, it just never seemed to push its way to the top. I digress. Vixen brought out a mixed bag of emotions for me because it had some tremendously strong suits, but it also had some flaws, which undermined its ultimate potential. In terms of strength though, it must be noted that the author has done her homework about the time period because this book is alive. The backdrop for the story is alive with details, and we savour each and every one because they make it all the more exciting. I felt as though I was experiencing life within a speakeasy firsthand. From the perfectly coiffed hair, to the extravagant dresses, overflowing liquor, dancing and more, the 20's are completely and utterly alive in this book. However, this strength also served to be a bit of a downfall to Vixen for me, as well. To bring such great detail to the story, we're offered almost half the book in backstory and setting the scene. For this reason, I almost feel as though the characters, Gloria, Clara and Lorraine served only as supporting characters to the backdrop. Of the three girls, I found Gloria to be the most sympathetic. She was fun and spunky, but she also hesitated to deviate from the norm because of extenuating circumstances. That said, when she lets loose, she does so in full, and it's just as liberating for us. Clara was a mess, in my opinion. I could never really get a grasp on what she wanted - whether it was to redeem her character, or simply revert to her old ways. Lorraine, too, grated my nerves. While she was, perhaps, the most plausible, this girl was also quite unstable, which made her chapters unsettling. When I did close the book, I have to say that the 20's were more alive for me than the characters, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

All in all, I really do like the setup for Vixen. I just wanted more from these characters because if it's a series in which I'm supposed to invest my time, I feel I should know the characters' motivations. I give this book a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA and historical fiction.


  1. Strong characters would always make me like a book 10 times more. Not sure if I'll pick this one up...

    Lovely review! <33

  2. I love the 1920s as well, but after reading Bray's The Diviners, I've found that most historical fiction set in the same era doesn't live up. Plus, I know I'd struggle with the characters in this one, so I'll be skipping it, I think. Fantastic review, though, Melissa! I found this one really helpful.

  3. I love anything set in the 20s, too. Location doesn't matter, although Paris is a top choice. If you like this, check out The Gin Lovers by Jamie Brenner. That was originally released as a serial of six books, but it's now out in one volume. I've been dying to read The Diviners, too.

  4. I've been looking for more 1920 books, and I'm glad you ended up reading and reviewing this one, Melissa! It looks like Larkin really gets into the setting for this one, and makes it really vivid and real. Perhaps a little too much even, because the characters are neglected. At least you liked Gloria! I'm a little worried about how weak the other girls seem to be. Thanks for your honest thoughts though, and brilliant review as always!

  5. Strong, flawed characters make everything better - I'm sorry that the characters were a bit lacking. This doesn't really sound like my thing!

    Lovely review, though.

  6. I read this one around the same time I was reading Anna Godbersen's Bright Young Things, and I was struck by how similar they were. I even thought they had similar flaws - wanting more from the characters, too much time setting up the story, etc. I haven't continued on with this series. With so many books out there? I just wasn't sure I cared enough about this characters to keep reading about them.


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