Mara Valentine is in control. She's a straight-A senior, a vegan, and her parents' pride and joy. She's neck-and-neck with her womanizing ex-boyfriend for number-one class ranking and plans to kick his salutatorian butt on her way out the door to Yale. Mara has her remaining months in Brockport all planned out, but the plan does not include having V, her slutty, pot-smoking, sixteen-year-old niece - yes, niece - come to live with her family. Nor does it involve lusting after her boss or dreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches every night. What does a control freak like Mara do when things start spinning wildly out of control?
Thank you, N!
Funny Quotes: (cos the book is humorous and all :))
"On Valentine's Day, the Spirit Club plastered the school with red streamers and pink balloons and red and pink hearts. It looked like Clifford the Big Red Dog ate a flock of flamingos and then barfed his guts up."
Ah, reading this book reminds me of why sometimes it’s good to ignore the negative reviews. Because, honestly, I only requested it for the title, which I thought was absurdly awesome (as are all of Mackler’s up ’til Guyaholic, which is pretty meh). My expectations were between a rock and a hard place, shot to hell by all the low-ratings on Amazon and GoodReads.
But you know what, I actually enjoyed this book. Very much so, in fact.
So I went back through all the negatives to see what people were on about. Be warned this review will pretty much be an anti-thesis to most of the criticism allotted to this novel. I’ll throw in my “original” thoughts somewhere, maybe, but until then:
Mara is a vegan. She’s also a virgin. Her last name is Valentine. The mystery of the title is now revealed, and given they’re in the title, you’d think these three characteristics would play some big part in the novel. This in mind, I understand, to a certain degree, Criticism #1:
The character’s knowledge of and motivation for the pursuit of veganism were nonexistent.
Frankly, I don’t know that much about veganism and couldn’t care less if she followed that lifestyle out of her own, singularly-formed conscience or if, as it happened, she decided to stop eating animal byproducts because she needed a new focus after her boyfriend broke her heart. Yeah, her foundation’s misconstrued, and I wouldn’t recommend people making every life decision on rebound impulses. But again: it’s veganism we’re talking about, and as it doesn’t play a huge part in my life, I don’t feel the weight of what she did incorrectly or not. (Nor, to be blunt, do I care.) I’m sure other girls have made more serious decisions without substantial consideration.
Though once more: I don’t know any vegans, I’m not a vegan, so this doesn’t hit home. If you hate books where the character is perhaps “gratuitously” vegetarian or vegan (which is to say, she isn’t so into it that she knows the rationale and animal-activism aim for every food she boycotts), perhaps this isn’t the right novel for ya.
Then there’s the question of Mara’s morality. In the beginning of the novel, she’s battling to become the valedictorian, take as many college courses as she possibly can, and enter Yale (early acceptance, baby!) as a second-year student. Her entire routine is dictated by her overachieving self, which in turn was molded by her (well-meaning) parents. Then she begins changing, transforming, undergoing her own sort of awakening. She begins dating a new guy—who, unlike her old boyfriend, respects her—and being with him makes her question why she’s rushing through everything.
So, she ends up dropping a college course, not really caring about schoolwork anymore, and subsequently dropping out of a prestigious summer program to further advance her college credits. She begins thinking about the path she’s on and changing this according to what she sees fit. Yes, this means she’s swayed by the desire to stay with New Guy until the end of summer (thus why she dropped the summer program). But she struggles with all those decisions, questions herself and what her life’s been so far, and you know what? That’s pretty damn admirable. Whether she’s losing her morality or not, I choose not to judge, because I believed Mara was doing what she felt correlated more with what she wanted.
Vegan Virgin Valentine? Good book, as far as I’m concerned. Examining oneself—taking a good look in the mirror—once in a while and asking, “Why?” is never, ever a bad thing. In contrast, I think beginning-of-the-novel Mara was narrow-minded and intolerant. Toward the end, I thought she became more mature and compassionate.
DID I MENTION HOW PROUD I WAS THAT SHE FINALLY CAME TO TERMS WITH WHAT SHE WANTED AND TOOK CONTROL OF HER LIFE?
That’s that most important thing, in my opinion: that she came to terms with what she want.
Despite everything, she’ll still be attending Yale with excellent transcripts in the fall. Which goes to show you for her morality. Let the girl have a little fun in the meantime for god’s sake.
When all is said and done, I acknowledge people will always find something to nitpick (and I’m certainly not in the slightest above this). They expected more out of the story, out of the ending, out of Mara. They’ll be judging her morality. (Which I’ll be guilty of doing in a couple of days, with another book. Hah, hypocrisy. Case-by-case basis, grasshopper.) I hope, however, that this review outlined what happens and my perspective on it, and above all, I hope someone, somewhere, understands what I’m saying. The writing was good; the character development was good for what was required of the novel; the self-discovery part was one I related to immensely, especially when Mara realized grades are very rarely the meter of someone’s intelligence, capacity or potential.
What I’m saying is: I thought it was awesome. It’s not for everybody (evidently), but presented to the right set of eyes, this book is quite scrumptiously good. (And funny!)