Friday, May 20, 2005

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Vegan Virgin Valentine is the latest book by Carolyn Mackler; her The Earth, My Butt, & Other Big, Round Things was a Printz Honor Book.

VVV is about Mara Valentine; yes, she's a vegan and a virgin. Mara is headed for Yale, aiming to be Valedictorian, and is all around super student and wonderful daughter. Then along comes Vivienne Vail Valentine, aka V -- Mara's niece, only a year younger than Mara. V is Mara's opposite; a "nicotine-addicted nympho" who doesn't care about school or grades. V has been raised by Mara's older sister, a flighty college drop out who moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, town to town. Now V has moved in with Mara. The plot is simple: these two opposites find they have things in common, and each changes. V gets a bit more disciplined; Mara loosens up a bit.

The good: this is a great, funny, book about a normal teen. If it seems like every teen book you've picked up has murder/ drugs/ death/ cutting etc., this is a refreshing change. A book doesn't need the drama to be good; or, rather, drama can come from the every day things found in every teens life: friends, school, family.

Also good: the treatment of university and grades. Stop reading now if you want to remain unspoiled.

Sometimes it seems that in books and TV, the only way to "loosen up" a good girl is to have her not go to university. Examples: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson and Julia in Party of Five; just this week, Rory from Gilmore Girls dropped out of Yale. How refreshing to have Mara loosen up -- but still go to university.

Instead of postponing or avoiding school to show that Mara is not "uptight", Mackler has Mara reassess her drive to succeed. Mara discovers that life is not x or y; black and white; good or bad; nice or slutty. Mara had planned on completing university in less than four years; she realizes, why not four years? Why not enjoy herself and succeed -- why not have balance?

2 comments:

Chris said...

Liz,
Thanks for recommending this book. I really enjoyed it. I could really relate to Mara's view of the world. I also liked how Mara's view of her parents changed throughout the course of the book. At first they were one unit, but Mara began to see how they had different views of the world. And Mara was able to perceive the emotions and thoughts driving their behavior.

Liz B said...

Chris,
It was refreshing to have parents presented in such a "normal" light: no big drama, just regular people. Like you said, it was more about perceptions and communication.
Liz

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