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Vegan Virgin Valentine

Review

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Meet Mara Valentine. She has "type A blood, a type A personality, and . . . an A-cup bra." Mara is on the fast track to success: she's duking it out for valedictorian, she's been accepted early decision by Yale, and she's already taking college courses. Mara's much older sister Aimee has always been a screw-up, traveling around the world in search of the next big thing. Mara is desperate not to disappoint her mom and dad the way Aimee did --- she has to succeed because she is her parents' "Only Hope."

Secretly, though, Mara is vulnerable: her college courses have left her without many high school friends, and she's still reeling from a painful breakup with equally high-achieving Travis. She hides her insecurities by trying to control absolutely everything, from her schedule to her emotions to her diet. She confesses that she has become a vegan not only because she is "grossed out by animal byproducts" but because veganism is "all-consumingly obsessive. . . . It can be a pain, but it helps keep my mind off things."

That's why, when Aimee's troublemaking daughter (and Mara's niece), sixteen-year-old V, comes to live with Mara's family while Aimee chases her surfer boyfriend to Costa Rica, Mara is furious. V has always had the ability to see through Mara's veneer and to call attention to Mara's fears and anxieties. When V moves in on Mara's ex, Mara vows never to be friends with this "class-ditching, chair-in-the-principal's-office-warming deadbeat."

V's tough-talking, no-nonsense attitude does rub off on Mara, though, as she begins to question why she has made the choices she has. When she starts to have feelings for James, her boss at the coffee shop, her life gets even more confused. If James, who has never been to college but owns a successful small business, can be one of the smartest (not to mention the cutest) people she has ever met, does Mara need to redefine the meaning of success?

Like Carolyn Mackler's earlier novels, VEGAN VIRGIN VALENTINE has a winning combination of a likeable main character, zingy narration, and some truly funny one-liners. Readers who find themselves identifying with misunderstood V may be somewhat frustrated by the novel's primary focus on Mara's development. This intriguing character screams to be the star of her own novel, and readers will likely find themselves wishing for a sequel.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 22, 2004

Vegan Virgin Valentine
by Carolyn Mackler

  • Publication Date: July 22, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763621552
  • ISBN-13: 9780763621551