Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Published:March 26th 2013 by Bloomsbury
Source: ARC from publisher
Synopsis (Goodreads): When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
- Run for pep club secretary
- Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
- Sew a dress for Homecoming
- Find a steady
- Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.
I’m starting to get a better sense of the kind of contemporary reads that appeal to personally, and those that don’t. Because I don’t read solely for my own personal enjoyment and try to read a variety of styles, genres, and formats, I’ve been thinking about the best way to approach reviewing books that end up just not being my personal style. The most balanced and honest way is to explain what I feel many other readers will enjoy about Going Vintage, and what didn’t work for me personally. This was one of those books that I didn’t personally love but I think is a decent example of a certain type of contemporary that will appeal to readers. Due to the particular hook of this book, this review is just begging to be written in list format. Going Vintage had some good things going on, but ultimately is just not to my taste.
THINGS I LIKE ABOUT GOING VINTAGE
1. Cute Hipster Romantic Interest
Although he was not exactly a dynamic character, Oliver was the kind of boy I’d be into if I were a teen.
2. Awesome Sister
Ginnie is kick ass. She’s all into soccer, she loves to cook healthy vegan food, she’s supportive of her older sister but knows how to tell it like it is.
3. Passing the Bechel Test
Ginnie and Mallory do talk about boys. A lot. They also talk about their family and their own interests. It’s so refreshing to see a cutesy contemporary that has a functional relationship between two teenage girls. Especially sisters.
I didn’t love everything about the way the family dynamics were used for the plot. I did love that family played a role at all, because so few young adult novels focus on family to such an extent. When family is a theme explored in a young adult novel, it’s often dysfunctional.
5. The Ex
Jeremy, Mallory’s ex-boyfriend, is gross. He is self-involved and opportunistic and emotionally immature and totally typical teenage guy. While I didn’t actually like Jeremy, I liked that his character was unapologetically teenage guy without making him utterly evil.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT GOING VINTAGE
Stupid effing name. Is there some sort of legal reason to not just call it Facebook? This was so freaking annoying because so much of the plot revolved around it.
2. The Lists
Dude, I make lists. I have special Knick Knock stationary on which to make lists. I make grocery lists and book lists and to-do lists. I once made a list of boys I have kissed (it was very short). But it just feels gimmicky. I felt the same way about The Reece Malcolm List.
3. Mallory’s Inner Dialogue
Leavitt writes Mallory with a pretty authentic teenage voice that will appeal to lots of readers; she just doesn’t appeal to me. Ultimately, Mallory is pretty shallow and her introspection only skims the surface of things. Even though she isn’t exactly deep, she was always over-explaining things instead of letting me, as the reader, make the connections and inferences. I never for once felt as if I was swept away in the story, and I was always aware of the fact that I was reading a book. So much of a novel’s appeal is in its voice, and Mallory’s voice did not speak to me.
4. Static Secondary Characters
The characters in Going Vintage are flat. Sure, I liked Ginnie and Oliver, but I didn’t find them particularly compelling. I wasn’t invested in their fates.
5. Predictable Plot
Absolutely no clever twists in this one. It’s clear from the beginning how it’s all going to work out. Their secretive mom is not hiding what they think, and quite predictably her secret is related to Internet culture just as the conflict that drives Mallory’s character arc is. Of course Mallory’s grandmother, who inspires her list, will obviously have a “dark” secret that will reveal the past wasn’t as perfect as Mallory believes it to be.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Going Vintage has a good message. I don’t always think that books that are so conscious of their audience as teens are the most exciting or entertaining reads, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily any less valuable.
At its core, Going Vintage is about a girl exploring her own personality and interests and establishing an identity outside of her boyfriend. It touches on some pretty interesting contemporary issues: intimacy and privacy in an increasingly interconnected and transparent digital age and the dangers of nostalgia and romanticizing history as well as the dangers of forgetting the past. I only wished these has been explored more deeply or with more nuance. It feels like they were just introduced into the story for effect. I didn’t think the story actually offered much in terms of reflection or commentary on these issues.
This book is light, fluffy, and fun, and while the main plot is predicated on a romantic relationship, it isn’t overly romantic. Linsey Leavitt’s writing lacks that literary quality that makes contemporary stories like Graffiti Moon (reviewed here) or Fingerprints of You (reviewed here) appeal to me. It’s very similar to The Reece Malcolm List (reviewed here), but in my opinion, not as well done. There is plenty of humor in this, I just prefer mine much darker, like the kind of bitter humor you can find in The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand (reviewed here).
Green Bean Teen Queen: “There’s a bit of a romance, but it’s also wonderfully well done and I love that it’s also a story about Mallory learning to be on her own. I can’t wait to recommend this one to my teens. Great for readers looking for a touch of romance and lots of humor.”
Alice in Readerland: “ I couldn’t exactly connect to Mallory and wondered about a lot of her choices. I also definitely didn’t like what you found out Mallory’s mother has been doing, it seemed unnecessary and (in my opinion) like she got off too easily. But overall, Going Vintage was a fun read.”