Monday, March 18, 2013

Going Vintage

I have looked forward to reading Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt since I first heard of it. The concept. The cover. And I really enjoyed Leavitt's previous work, Sean Griswold's Head (my thoughts). I had expectations for this book. Big ones. And it was everything I wanted it to be.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage" and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn't cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma's list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy's cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she'll get it done. Somehow. 

History was my concentration (almost a second major, but not quite-all elementary ed majors at my school had to have one) in college. I read a lot of historical non-fiction. I have little tolerance when people start misting up all nostalgic about "the good old days".  People who think if they could just get back to a simpler time everything would be better tend to make me want to give history lectures. (Being a homeschool mom this is a challenge. You have no idea how often I end up biting my tongue. The homeschool community has an issue with this. Not going to lie.) So I really loved watching Mallory on her journey to discover that nostalgia is all well and good, but the idea of a simpler and easier time is a fallacy. As her grandmother so sagely points out: Adolescence is the same tragey being performed again and again. The only things that change are the stage props. (Added to my all time favorite quotes.) This is a story about a girl who has had her heartbroken for the first time. Going vintage is her rebound. I could not identify with Mallory very much, but I loved her all the same. Like most 16 year olds she is a bit self centered, but she is aware of what goes on around her as well. I like how she sees things in herself and the life she leads that she doesn't like and works to change them. Yes, it is all about getting over a boy, but through the journey Mallory discovers a lot about herself and her family. Leavitt does spark some interesting food for thought on technology and how it hinders or helps human interaction. There could also be some debate on whether or not Mallory overreacted to Jeremy's online life. (I'm personally on her side 100% on this one.)

Something I appreciate about Leavitt's two YA books is even though they have their touch of romance, they are not romance novels. Going Vintage is a book about a girl on a journey to discover who she is independent of any boys. It is also a book about family. I love that. Mallory's family is a strong one. Not a perfect one, for such a thing does not exist. Mallory has a strained relationship with her mother. They don't fully understand each other, but they do fully love each other. Her parents argue a lot, but also make out a lot. Mallory's sister is her best friend, but man when they fight they FIGHT. (Having exactly such a relationship with my own younger sister, I really loved this aspect.) Mallory's relationship with her grandmother is truly special. I love seeing family highlighted as so important in all its beautiful imperfections in a YA novel.

And yes, the book does have a pretty awesome boy too. Oliver. Their relationship is complicated because Mallory just broke up with her boyfriend and that boyfriend is Oliver's cousin. I really like how Leavitt grew their relationship, how they became friends, how Mallory realized her opinion of him originally came entirely from Jeremy and she needed to get to know him on his own terms, how they do some stupid things in the course of the story but never ridiculous melodramatic ones. Oliver himself is a great guy, but still a teen guy, something else I appreciate. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Oliver is admitting he enjoys spending time with her. Best declaration of interest ever: "But given...the obvious roadblock. I'm not sure how much we can get to know each other." He rushes on. "As people, because you're an interesting person and I value that in friendship. That's seriously what I'm after, not that I'm after you and I'm  not talking about, you know, 'knowing' each other. Like in a biblical way or anything, although you're obviously pretty, I mean, very pretty and totally worth knowing both ways...God, shut it, Oliver. Shut it." The whole time he's saying this he's looking out a window and not at her. How awkwardly adorable is that?

I went into this book expecting a light fun read, but one with substance, heart, and wisdom. And that's exactly what Going Vintage offers.

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