Book Review: Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
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? With insight, authenticity, and a healthy dose of humor, Carolyn Mackler creates an evolving Type A heroine that every reader will recognize – and root for.
Opinion: (Caution: spoilers ahead)
I had high hopes for this book. As a straight-A student and a wannabe vegan, I was hoping that I was finally going to find a character that I could relate to. I thought she was going to find a way to have more fun while still being herself. I thought she was going to slowly learn how to relate to the people around her.
Instead, she drops out of her summer college classes to spend more time with her boyfriend, who becomes the most important thing in the world to her. She finally gets the title of valedictorian, and she almost skips graduation and ends up showing up un-showered, without a bra, wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts. I’m sorry, but that is what we’ve been waiting to see happen? That is the moral of this story? Hey girls – don’t spend all your time studying and trying to get somewhere in life. Instead, blow off college and make out with a guy instead.
There were some interesting parts of this novel. The first half of the book sort of dragged for me, but there was a good quarter of the novel where I just wanted to keep reading. I did want her to get with the guy she had a crush on. I just wanted to find a way for her to have both him and the college summer classes. I wanted her to still care about the things she cared about before. I guess I wanted it to be more like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Twilight Sparkle, the main pony in that show, starts out obsessed with books and doesn’t care about friendship at all. When she finally does learn that friendship is important, she doesn’t change who she is – she still loves reading and learning. She still freaks out if she doesn’t live up to her standards. She just also has friends that she makes time for, and they help her relax without giving up everything that was important to her before.
I guess I’m just sad that Mara couldn’t learn that same lesson. Also, I’m pissed that this is the first vegan character I’ve read about, and she was only a vegan because she wanted something to obsess about. Vegans get enough of a bad rep in life; it was annoying to read about another one who wasn’t really into it. All we really saw were the bad parts of being a vegan – namely giving up cheese and having a hard time eating out at small little diners. I’m not saying it was the author’s job to educate people to the lives of vegans, but it would have been nice not to cast them in such a bad light.
Also, there wasn’t really as much Mara/V interaction as I was hoping for. There’s one scene where Mara learns that V stood up for her, and she starts to reconsider her opinion of her niece, but for the most part there’s not much in the way of getting to know each other. There are just a few scenes at the end, after they’ve stopped hating each other. I would have liked to see more of a middle, where they still don’t like each other but don’t outright hate each other, either.
I was originally going to rate this book higher than I did, but then I waited a few days to write the review, and the parts that jumped out to me were the bad parts. I would not recommend this book to others.